THE OTHER DREAM TEAM – The Review
Could there be a new trend in the field of feature-length documentaries? After last year’s Oscar winner UNDEFEATED and the surprise box office success of this year’s SEARCHING FOR SUGARMAN, are we seeing a spate of “feel-good” doc? They’ve had an unfair rep as dour and somber for quite some time now. Many film goers avoid them completely, feeling that they’re the movie equivalent of a dull lecture or homework (“shudder”)! But THE OTHER DREAM TEAM is a truly uplifting movie. And to quote one of the film’s subjects, “What a long, strange, trip it’s been”.
This is primarily the story of the 1992 Lithuanian basketball team whose tale really begins in 1940. That’s when the USSR, in order to battle the Axis menace, took over the country of Lithuania. During those many dark days of occupation Lithuanians sought relief by indulging in their favorite national sport of basketball. Make-shift hoops and goal post sprung up everywhere. Many gifted athletes emerged and were major players in the Soviet Olympic teams. The NBA in the United States attempted to draft several other them, but the Soviets would not allow them to leave Lithuania. After Russia pulled out of the 1984 Olympics, many thought their gold medal dreams were dashed. Then came the triumph of the 1988 games with four Lithuanians in the starting five. Shortly thereafter came the fall of the USSR and the liberation of their homeland. They would compete in the 1992 Olympics for Lithuania at last. Wonderful, except for the lack of funds for the team’s expenses. Who could could step in and help? Their unlikely benefactors were Jerry Garcia and his band. The Dead even provided special tye-dyed uniforms. The Lithuanians would be able to compete, but how would they fare against the juggernaut known as the USA “Dream Team” (consisting of superstars like Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley)?
Director Marius A. Markevicius keep things moving along at a fairly brisk pace in telling the early history of the sport in Lithuania. Newsreel footage is intercut with animation and movie clips that highlight Russian stereotypes (Ivan Drago, Boris Badenov,etc.). We get to see the old team passing on their skills to a younger generation. And of course there are TV reports on the battle to oust USSR troops (heart-wrenching scenes of carnage and chaos). Most of the film has the standard talking head interviews with those 1993 players along with US sport stars such as Bill Walton and Chris Mullin, NBA commissioner David Stern, Grateful Dead member Mickey Hart, and sportscaster Jim Lampley. This can put a bit of a drag on the film’s momentum, but the euphoria of the final moments will leave you ecstatic. THE OTHER DREAM TEAM is not just for basketball fans. This tale of a country finally gaining its independence is a story to inspire everyone, Seems a win is even sweeter when you’re playing for your homeland.
3.5 Out of 5 stars
THE OTHER DREAM TEAM plays exclusively in the St. Louis area at Landmark’s Plaza Frontenac Cinemas