For a good part of the 20th century, the country Lithuania wasn’t a country at all. World War 2 saw the small, Northeastern European country occupied by Russia, then Germany, and then Russia again. Lithuania remained a part of the USSR–whether it liked it or not–until 1990, when it became the first country to formally declare independence from the Soviet state.
Even longer than the country’s occupation by the Soviets runs its love of basketball. The Lithuanians proved an international basketball force before World War 2. There have been a number of Lithuanians to make it and succeed in the NBA, providing just as much international talent as most countries have.
This is what The Other Dream Team is about: The Cold War and Basketball. And it couldn’t be any more fascinating.
The film follows three main story lines, weaving the plots together to make one great documentary. There’s the 20th century plight of the relatively obscure Baltic country of Lithuania, struggling to get out from the grips of Soviet Russia. There’s the famous players from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics Lithuanian basketball team, a number of whom played in the NBA once the USSR weakened and then dissolved. And then there’s a young, 21st century Lithuanian, Jonas Valanciunas, who is training to enter the NBA draft.
Each plot point provides an underdog to root for and, even if you knew the outcomes going in, told well enough to keep you in the fight. Interview subjects include famous American basketball figures among the many entertaining Lithuanian characters. The time period photos and film provide enough entertainment in the way of haircuts and clothing styles to sustain another documentary on late 1980s and early 1990s fashion. And those tie-dye uniforms! How can you not love this movie?
The Other Dream Team is playing at Royal Oak’s Main Art Theatre.
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