David, a sixteen-year-old hockey goalie, tries to stand his ground against an avalanche of bullying
Director, screenwriter: Tomáš Polenský
Screenwriter: Irena Kocí
The Pack/Smečka, Czech Republic/Latvia
According to research, one in almost every five children experiences bullying at some point in their life. This particular form of harassment is, however, almost always mentioned exclusively in the context of educational institutions; yet my own experience indicates that bullying often plays a role in youth sports teams organizations as well. And when it does, its brutality usually greatly exceeds any form of bullying experienced at school. Therefore, to deepen the impression our film, The Pack, will have on its audience, and to make it accessible to today’s young generation, we have set the story in the attractive and dynamic world of ice hockey.
It is a world that I, personally, know very well. My sister, three years my junior, is the captain of the Czech Republic women’s national ice hockey team; I myself spent 16 years playing minor and junior hockey, and even acted as a youth coach for several seasons. I was part of the top level of junior hockey, where competitiveness was great – after all, entry to professional hockey was literally almost within one’s grasp.
Rivalry is a natural part of a sports environment. That said, it must never leave the bounds of fair play; if it does, healthy competitiveness can get out of hand, giving way to the ‘law of the pack’, with brute force becoming the only value. I see this situation as a metaphor for the Czech society of today, which displays a distinct lack of solidarity.
Our film introduces an aggressive group of teenagers who value nothing except the survival of the fittest. The team morphs into a wolf pack, where a weaker individual stands no chance. The film’s protagonist, David (16), is a rookie player for the Zlín Wolves, a fictional hockey team. As a backup goaltender, he is predetermined to become the team’s ‘punching bag’, a target of cruel bullying. In vain, he tries to find ways to defend himself. In the end, the need for self-preservation becomes a fundamental dramatic requirement leading David to action.
The pack environment is supported even by the behavior of the player’s parents. Miky – the starting goaltender – is the coach’s son, and his father will not allow him to lose his position. David’s father, on the other hand, is a successful businessman, used to getting what he wants no matter the cost. He is not above using a bribe to give his son a chance.
We witness the bullying become worse as the film progresses; then, in one moment, it leaves David with no other option than to use strength. As he’s outnumbered, he grabs his hockey stick and turns it into a weapon, striking Miky down. He does win that fight, but his defense is completely inappropriate – it turns him into one of the aggressors, a wolf that bites. However, that is something David refuses to accept. Even though his dream becomes true – he becomes the starting goaltender – and the other players finally accept him, he’s through with hockey.
The current social climate promotes ‘sharp elbows’ and condemns compassion, demonstrated by, for instance, the reaction of the Czech society to the refugee crisis. We are convinced that an aggressive atmosphere of this kind has a negative influence on the young generation. What more, since bullying and hazing take place all over the world, the topic of a warped world governed by the ‘law of the pack’ can be related to on an international level. And while the film primarily targets the age group of the film’s protagonist, it also aims to reach their parents and grandparents. The story of David, who, in a climactic moment, acts in accordance with law of the fittest, becomes a reflection of current happenings across society, on a both local and international level. After all, we are living in times when the entire world quakes under the ‘law of the wolf pack’.