Review: "Red Penguins"
This is a fascinating and entertaining tale that's more about Russian history than Russian hockey. If you're looking for the latter, try Red Army, the 2015 documentary by the same Russian American director, Gabe Polsky.
Red Penguins' narrative arc neatly parallels both Boris Yeltsin's presidency and the emotional experience of the Americans involved in the Russian hockey team -- from the excitement of reinventing a beloved national franchise at the dawn of Russia's '90s-era democracy, to the thrill of puzzling out a new culture with wildly successful marketing campaigns, to the eventual realization that rampant corruption and criminal activity would cut the entire venture short.
The story isn't told exclusively from the Americans' perspective, and the Russians interviewed -- including journalists, a reputed mafioso, former KGB agents and military officers, and people involved with the hockey team -- offer mixed recollections of the same experiences.
Polsky does an impressive job exploring his sources' personalities, and perhaps even probing their authenticity, leaving the camera on them as they react to their own stories, often with evident emotion concerning the relationships, people, hopes, and dreams left behind.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.