Unrated (nothing objectionable); 87 min.
What is it about basketball that makes it the subject of the best up-from-struggle sports documentaries? From Hoop Dreams to More Than a Game, basketball seems to intrigue filmmakers looking for that perfect combo of speed, sweat, spirit and triumph over adversity.
Now, add The Other Dream Team to the list. Tiny Lithuania's rise as an international basketball powerhouse is certainly an intriguing sports footnote, but director Marius Markevicius invests it with enough humanity -- telling the story of the scrappy Lithuanian team that beat the mighty Soviet Union at the 1992 Olympics in parallel with that of current-day Toronto Raptor Jonas Valanciunas -- that the film has appeal far beyond basketball fandom.
Markevicius takes viewers back to the early 20th century, when Lithuania was crushed under the bootheel of the Soviets. One of the ways out for young men in the impoverished nation was through basketball, and some of the best players on the Soviet Olympic teams were Lithuanian, even though they ached to play for their own country.
Markevicius chats with many of them, like Sarunas Marciulionis and Arvydas Sabonis, who went on to join the NBA. Each of them is funny and warm about their hatred of the Soviets and their initial adventures in the U.S.
And then there's Lithuanian-born Valanciunas, coming up in a different time, with no firsthand knowledge of the suffering of his predecessors.
In an era when so much of the focus in sports is on the glam and the glitz, it's nice to be reminded that it can still be about heart and soul, too.
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-- Cary Darling