January 26, 2012
Sundance Review: The Other Dream Team
So, my dad has this shirt. It's kinda far out, and I'm pretty sure if I saw it whilst under the influence of some psychotropic drug (maybe "Soy Sauce"), that my head would explode. The shirt is tie-dye, for one, but that's not the crazy part. The crazy part is the skeleton dunking a basketball with LITHUANIA projected behind it in big block letters.
Ok, you probably know exactly what shirt I'm talking about. What I'm getting at is this. My dad attended the screening of The Other Dream Team with me and my mother. He told me that Sarunas Marciulionis was his favorite player of that era. And he's a HUGE fan of the Grateful Dead. So, of course he leaves the shirt at home. It was disappointing.
In 1992, it was all about The Dream Team, and rightfully so. The US had put together, quite possibly, the finest basketball team in the history of the sport, and it showed, if their domination of the medal race is anything to go on. But, they weren't the only "Dream" team in Barcelona that year. While the US might have made the team you dream of, Lithuania made a team that was chasing a dream. Having just gained independence from the rapidly collapsing USSR, the small nation of only three million people was ready and anxious to set itself apart from its neighbor. And while the US would go on to face Croatia in the final, the big game was Lithuania vs. Russia, a game that Lithuania ultimately won.
The Other Dream Team is just as much the story of a sports team triumph, as it is the story of Lithuania's fight for independence. While the sport of basketball and the members of the 1992 Olympic team are the focus, an equal amount of time is dedicated to exploring the political climate of the time. The film offers what amounts to, more or less, a crash course in USSR occupied Lithuania, with a focus on how the sport of basketball became a the thing that Lithuania could use to set itself apart from the rest of the Soviet nations.
And it's really engrossing. I had just come out of another movie, and got right back in line for this one, so I was afraid I was gonna be dozing off. Never! Even! Came! Close! I was glued to the edge of my seat as I witnessed Sarunas Marciulionis' first foray into the NBA, the atrocities committed in Lithuania during the fight for independence, and, of course, how the Grateful Dead got involved.
You really get a sense of the gravity of the whole situation. Lithuania was the first country to declare independence from the USSR, and then to face them in their national sport not long after, fighting for the bronze at the Olympics. I mean, those guys had a lot on their shoulders. Not only were they competing for a medal, but they were setting the example for all the other nations still under Soviet control. If a small nation could beat the biggest super power in the world, anyone can. And that moment of triumph in the end is glorious! Absolutely glorious!!!