After leading the USSR to a gold medal (and victory over the U.S.A.) at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Sarunas Marciulionis and Arvydas Sabonis were poster boys for their oppressor’s sports machine. Four years later, after the fall of the Soviet Union, they emerged as symbols of democracy, helping their country break free from the shackles of Communism, and willing newly independent Lithuania to the medal stand at the Barcelona Olympics.
“The Other Dream Team” documents the Lithuanians’ experiences behind the Iron Curtain, where elite athletes were subjected to brutalities of Communist rule. As they hid from KGB agents and feared for their lives, Lithuania’s basketball stars always shared a common goal – to utilize their athletic gifts to help free their country.
The ’92 Lithuanian team won fans around the world for its hard-nosed play, its underdog story and its unusual connection with the Grateful Dead. Inspired by the Lithuanian’s message of freedom, the Dead provided financial assistance to the team and helped create their distinctive, tie-dye warm ups, which included a creative design from artist Greg Speirs.
In Barcelona, Lithuania advanced to the medal round, where the team faced Russia – Lithuania’s oppressor since 1940 – for the bronze. Lithuania emerged victorious, and then rose to the medal stand wearing their colorful gear emblazoned with the memorable dunking skeleton logo. By beating Russia, David had beaten Goliath – and the Lithuanian team had raised the game of basketball into an unforgettable expression of political and cultural identity.
With a mix of verite scenes, incisive interviews and extraordinary archival footage and photos culled from former Soviet archives, audiences will see how a special group of athletes journeyed through the bleak era of Communism to the rebirth of a nation and their own freedom. “The Other Dream Team” is a story that will resonate for any viewer with an interest in world history, politics, pop culture, basketball or the triumph of the human spirit. It is global basketball’s ultimate ‘long, strange trip’ — with a very happy ending. Learn more about the movie here.