The stranger-than-fiction, vastly entertaining odyssey of the brash American businessmen who attempted to revitalize Russia’s fabled national hockey team in the lawless, post-Cold War 1990s.
In the chaotic period following the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia’s famous national hockey team was languishing, with many of its best players chasing more lucrative offers abroad. Sensing an opportunity, ambitious Pittsburgh Penguins owner Howard Baldwin and other American investors decided to swoop in. They sent eccentric marketing guru Steven Marshaw to Moscow with the directive to turn the listless team, renamed the Russian Penguins, into a money-making franchise to rival the NHL. Audacious New Yorker Marshaw looks back on the experience with a candid mixture of bemusement and lingering trauma, recalling the unbelievable hijinks—including strippers and beer-serving bears—used to draw spectators back to the rink, as well as the inevitable downturn when the involvement of unsavory elements and the Russians’ lingering resentments toward the American interlopers threatened to derail the endeavor. Equal parts uproarious and unsettling, Red Penguins is a captivating snapshot of an era of rapid, sweeping social change in Russia, when for a brief moment it looked like old Cold War animosities would thaw into friendship between the world’s two embattled superpowers.
In Competition: Documentary Feature Award
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