Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Other Dream Team

A terrific September for documentaries continues with the inspirational, feel-good “The Other Dream Team,” which contextualizes the bronze-winning 1992 Lithuanian Olympic basketball team within the country’s history of freedom, followed by Russian invasion and subjugation, followed by its heroic 1991 push for independence. For decades, not only did the people of Lithuanian live under the boot of Soviet oppression, but their sports teams (basketball has been the national pastime since Frank Lubin brought it back from Los Angeles) were forced to play for and wear the uniform of their oppressors.

That all changed thanks to the courage of some brass-balled leaders (especially first post-independence President Vytautas Landsbergis), several Soviet-gold-medal-winning “don’t call us Russian” Lithuanian cagers (Arvydas Sabonis, Sarunas Marciulonis), and the warm, wonderfully funny, freedom-loving people of Lithuania. “The Other Dream Team” culminates in the third-place game in Barcelona, between Lithuania (which had then been adopted and funded by the Grateful Dead, who supplied the tie-dyed T-shirts they wore everywhere around the Olympic Village) and the then-called “Unified Team” of the former Soviet Union. The stakes, as several of the film’s delightful talking heads note, were “to live or die.” It’s a rare sports movie that can get away with ending at The Big Game without feeling cheesy. “The Other Dream Team” entertains and informs.

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