The Other Dream Team, the new basketball based documentary from Lionsgate, is a surprisingly interesting work. It’s a story that will interest both basketball fans, history buffs, and even anyone who has any interest in political science. While the story itself is based against a backdrop of basketball, it’s less about the sport in question and more about politics and a people’s struggle to escape the crushing hand of communism. Together with its bonus Q&A session with Writer/Director Marius A. Markevicius and Writer/Producer Jon Weinbach, The Other Dream Team proves to be a surprise contender for one of the year’s best documentaries.
The Other Dream Team’s run time comes in at just over an hour and a half. In that time, audiences are introduced to a work that’s not just another underdog story. Rather, it’s a story of a group of men who represented an entire country in its struggle to break free from the bonds of communism. It centers on a group of four Lithuanians who originally were forced to play for the Russian national basketball team, but then managed to break free and form a Lithuanian basketball team. Even in their freedom from the Russian national team, the men still faced challenges, including one member of the team—Arvydas Sarbonis–being prevented from joining the NBA by the government of the then Communist Russia. Even on this side of the Atlantic, Sarbonis was called Russian by NBA Commissioner David Stern when he was drafted by the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers, which he wasn’t. And NBA fans here were none too pleased with the announcement, effectively making Sarbonis a man without a country so to speak. Players on both sides of the ball explain in interviews how the game of basketball became less about playing a game and more of a political statement, and just how important that statement was. Audiences who perhaps have never delved very deep into the political history of Communist and post Communist Russia will be amazed by just how important a single game could be to a whole nation. That importance is highlighted even more through interviews with a number of people close to the game including former NBA great Bill Walton, ESPN’s Chad Ford, Fran Fraschilla and a host of others. The program also features original footage of the conflict between Lithuania and Russia both on and off the court highlighting just how tense things were between the two nations in Lithuania’s struggle for independence. It all comes together to make a documentary that anyone with a love of history, sports, or even politics will thoroughly enjoy.
The documentary itself is quite interesting to watch. After watching it, viewers will also want to check out the feature’s bonus Q&A session with Writer/Director Marius A. Markevicius and Writer/Producer Jon Weinbach. Viewers learn from the session’s opening moments that Markevicius’ interest in crafting this story came from his own Lithuanian roots. He explains about growing up, watching the Lithuanian basketball team, trying to follow them, despite the general lack of information released about them when he was a child. The session is highlighted by questions posted and followed by some very in depth answers from both men. Sometimes those answers will move audiences. Others, it will have them laughing. It serves as a very good companion to the bonus audio commentary included with the film. Along with the commentary in question, the vintage footage, interviews and every element that went into bringing this film to life, The Other Dream Team proves to be an unexpectedly impressive documentary, and one that proves to be one of the year’s best in the documentary category. It’s available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via the Lionsgate online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/product.asp?Id=27844&TitleParentId=8032.
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