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Capone says the sports doc THE OTHER DREAM TEAM is a slam dunk!!!

Published at: Oct. 12, 2012, 1:35 a.m. CST

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

When the Olympic basketball team from Lithuania showed up to collect their medals in 1992 Barcelona (known by many as the year of the U.S. "Dream Team"), they piqued the interest of many by wearing tie-dyed shirts featuring art work that looked suspiciously like it came from the Grateful Dead (it did). The story that led to those men at that Olympics is captured in THE OTHER DREAM TEAM, one of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring sports documentaries I've ever seen.

In one movie (from first-time feature director Marius A. Markevicius), we see how a group of extremely talented Lithuanian basketball players went from being forced to play for the Soviet Union to playing under their country's own independent flag in just a few short years. The film isn't just a sports story; it's a tale of national pride and personal freedom that most documentaries could only hope to achieve.

Featuring interviews with all of the key members of the team, the film chronicles their road from playing in Lithuania to being snatched up to play for the USSR, most notably in 1988 Seoul Olympics, marking the only time Team USA lost the gold medal. A point of constant frustration was that all of the visiting journalists thought the team members were Russian, which they were hesitant to correct. Wherever the team went, including some exhibition games in America, they were closely watched by KGB agents, who they outsmarted regularly. The team members tell great stories of buying clothes and electronics to sell on the black market on the other side of the Iron Curtain, a practice that served as their primary income since they made very little from actually being on the team.

The team members' talent and abilities were so well known worldwide that during one NBA draft, a team actually symbolically drafted one of the players (the Soviet government refused to let the player travel to the States). What's even more remarkable is the responsibility that fell on the players' collective shoulders once the Iron Curtain was torn down, and Lithuania took its independence. The nation was virtually bankrupt financially, so there was a great deal of doubt that the team would get to play in Barcelona. But a random article that ran in a San Francisco newspaper caught the attention of the Grateful Dead, who became the team's sponsor to the Olympics, thus the tie-dye warm-ups.

The team took one of the most unusual, emotional rollercoasters of a ride through history, riding in the front car and pulling its tiny nation with it. THE OTHER DREAM TEAM is straight-forward storytelling, but this is one helluva story, the likes of which you probably won't see again, most certainly not in a sports doc. Be sure and check this one out if it lands at an art house near you.

-- Steve Prokopy
"Capone"
capone@aintitcool.com
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