Sony Classics' Tom Bernard Slams Oscar Voters For Snubbing Russian Hockey Doc 'Red Army'

Festival de Cannes

"It's a sign of some really old people in the documentary area of the Academy"

Sony Pictures Classic's Tom Bernard is fuming over his Russian hockey doc Red Army not making the Oscar documentary shortlist, and he blames ageing Academy voters for the snub.

"It's a sign of some really old people in the documentary area of the Academy. There's a lot of people who are really up in their years. It's shocking to me that that film (Red Army) didn't get in," Bernard told a digital film distribution panel Friday at Canada's Whistler Film Festival.

Bernard said he pursued Gabe Polsky's film about the lives and careers of five Russian hockey stars before and after their legendary loss to the U.S. hockey team in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid as soon as he heard about it. Bernard recounted Polsky, who played hockey at Yale, going to Russia and being given ten minutes to talk to Slava Fetisov.

Read more Red Army': Cannes Review

"Those ten minutes turned into three days. You just have to ask the right questions," he said. At one point, the Whistler audience was polled on who had heard of the Red Army film. Most hands in the room immediately went up. "Canada!" Bernard said, pointing to fellow hockey lovers in the room.

The Sony Pictures Classics chief also took another swipe at the Toronto Film Festival for its Telluride premiere policy, arguing fest organizers "over-stepped" when they discouraged movies from building buzz in Venice or Telluride before arriving in Toronto.

"Telluride has all the critics and the Academy and the reputation of pure cinema," Bernard said. "It's interesting what they want. If you're serving the film community and things are going well, why would you change it?" he added.

Read more Toronto Film Festival's Anti-Telluride Policy May Be Backfiring 

Former Alliance Films CEO Victor Loewy agreed Toronto had needlessly disrupted a Toronto-Telluride-Venice axis that worked well for filmmakers. "Those festivals co-existed for many years. Everybody was happy. The films were generally shown at all three festivals... It worked really well," Loewy told the Whistler panel.

What's driving the stepped-up competition between Toronto and Telluride? "Egos and the directors," Bernard said. "Festival directors, they look at like "I chose all those movies. I have 300 movies in my festival and I chose them.' You can say that."

The Whistler Film Festival runs through to Sunday.

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