Gabe Polsky had just gotten out of a screening of his 2014 documentary “Red Army” when a “crazy guy” approached him with another incredible story about the Russian hockey team that would become his next documentary “Red Penguins.”
He was so disinterested about learning any more about the history of Russian hockey that he and his wife were cleaning house and almost threw away a massive box of memorabilia sent to him by someone he thought must’ve be a crazy person. It turns out though the box of material was a “treasure trove” of sports history, and that crazy person turned out to be one of the producers and subjects of “Red Penguins,” Steven Warshaw.
“Right away I didn’t want anything to do with it because I had just made this huge movie about Russia and hockey, and I didn’t want anything to do with it,” Polsky told TheWrap’s Steve Pond following the film’s premiere at TIFF. “Somebody had to do this story. I was reluctant at the time, but I knew someone had to do it, and step by step, I got seduced into telling the story.”
“Red Penguins” follows Warshaw about how he hoped to revitalize Russian hockey in the post-Soviet era by bringing in a trio of stylish, showy American players from the NHL into the country. The premise is the reverse of Polsky’s “Red Army,” which looked at how Soviet hockey stars ultimately transformed the NHL with their elegant, precise and regimented style of play.
But Polsky’s documentary also examines the cross section of how drastically Russia changed in the post-USSR days, but Warshaw knew that his material not only helped to tell that story of Russia in the ’90s but that Polsky was the one to tell it, even if he thought Polsky would just ignore him.
“I was persistent, and I wore him down I guess, and after a while, he realized the insanity of what was in that treasure trove of Russian Penguins,” Warshaw said. “And to this day, 26 years later, you’re lucky to get out with your life and lucky to get out in one piece.”
Watch the interview with the team behind “Red Penguins” Gabe Polsky and Steven Warshaw above.