Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Anybody with even a miniscule amount of sports knowledge can tell you they've heard of "The Dream Team": That 1992 US Olympic basketball team that featured the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, David Robinson, Charles Barkley and others. They were a who's who of famous NBA stars who dominated the Barcelona games.
The Other Dream Team - as the name implies - is not about them.
In this riveting and thoughtful, historical sports documentary, The Other Dream Team teaches us about Lithuania, a country that had been overtaken and assimilated as part of The Soviet Union after World War II. In the 1988 Olympic Games - the one right before "The Dream Team" - The Soviet Union beat the US basketball team for the Gold, handing the US only their second loss in the Olympic history of the sport. Those were the days of The Cold War, of our big Red enemy overseas. As an American, The Soviet Union was strictly associated with Russia, right?
As we learn in this doc, four of the five starting players on the Gold Medal USSR were actually Lithuanian and not able to compete in the Olympics as anything but Soviets. Imagine achieving such an incredible personal goal such as winning an Olympic Medal, but not being able bring the proper pride and recognition of your accomplishments to the forefront.
From the American viewpoint, Russians were always the "bad guys," and this documentary peels this stereotype away. Part history lesson and part personal story, we get insight into the political climate of the times and the challenges that Lithuanians faced to wrestle themselves from the clutches of Soviet control.
This of course, is all set-up to the main event. The documentary paints this rich history but then adds to it. By the 1992 games, the Soviet Union was broken and Lithuania had found its freedom. Appearing at the '92 games as their own country, they were crushed in the semi-finals by the US "Dream Team." But it was only fitting, that their Bronze Medal game ended up pitting Lithuania against the former USSR.
As if all of this wasn't enough, somehow, the story of the Lithuanian Olympic basketball team took a very strange turn when The Grateful Dead - yes, the band - gets involved with the team...you will have to watch to find out in what capacity.
Our "Dream Team" was nick-named as such because of its All-Star cast of players. To this day, these names would be chosen by most to compile an all-time team of greats. But coming from nothing, tormented and destroyed by war and famine, clinging to a national identity for more than 40 years before finally achieving freedom and then competing on an international stage against those responsible for your oppression?
If that's not livin' the dream, I'm not sure I know what is.
Then, we are given a thread of a young Lithuanian athlete trying out for the NBA draft in 2011. Through this story, we are able to see the social and political changes that have happened in the past 30 years, further putting things in perspective.
Even stopping to realize how this definition of "dream" was applied to each team points to our cultural differences. The juxtaposition of our familiar American way of life and the hardships of those abroad creates a rich undertone for what is in its simplest form, a great sports story. But it's also an amazing story of the human spirit.
Run Time: 1 hour 29 minutes, Not Rated
Featuring: Jim Lampley, David Stern, Sarunas Marciulionis, Bill Walton, Dan Majerle, Arvydas Sabonis
Directed by Marius A. Markevicius (feature-film debut)
Opens locally on Friday, November 2nd, 2012.
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