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 / Slovakia / Latvia 2020
Skate blades cut the surface of the ice. Shadows of hockey players swirl through the frozen spray, leaving deep scratches in the ice. The spiralling scars left in the wake of their passing criss-cross and pile up, one over the other. ‘It’s all in your hands, it all depends on you, only you!’ A mantra David (16) believes in. He works hard. He wants! He wants to become the starting goalie again. When his family moves to the city of Zlín and David is placed in a new hockey team, the Wolves, he becomes determined to do everything he can to succeed.
There’s, however, the other goalie, Miky (16) – and his position seems unshakeable. Also, as if that wasn’t bad enough, the team doesn’t exactly welcome David with open arms. Is it because of the little plastic box that pumps insulin into his body? Even if it was, David won’t let his diabetes get the better of him. He works hard and trains hard, even though his mother (Klára Svobodová, 36) keeps pushing him to do better at school and showering him with motherly love. He strives to meet his father’s (David Svoboda sr., 45) ambitions, which is no easy feat, as his father – despite David’s handicap – wants to secure him a place on a more prestigious junior hockey team, HC Berani.
Two practices a day, sharpshooting forwards, strict rules, rough jokes. Captain Jerry (16) and his gang do as they please, while the team follows the ‘law of the pack’. But David has been weakened by his recently discovered diabetes, and that is not tolerated here. He is still coming to terms with his body, learning to estimate the insulin doses his life depends on. On the team, David is the outsider, bracing the avalanche of bullying that gradually gains speed. Those who don’t join in don’t help. David tries to fight back but ends up making everything even worse. The injustice, humiliation and hurt keep piling up, one over the other, not unlike the spiralling scars etched into the ice by skate blades. What will David do?
“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 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 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 all sports environments. That said, it must never leave the boundaries 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.
The topic of the twisted world of the ‘law of the wolf pack’ is both contemporary as well as accessible to an international audience because bullying and hazing take place all over the world.“, says director Tomáš Polenský on his feature debut.