In the past few years, the independent film market has been bombarded with sports documentaries, with one even winning an Academy Award earlier this year (the exceptional, UNDEFEATED). This one is about the 1992 Lithuanian basketball team’s journey to the Barcelona Olympics. Since I’m pretty oblivious to historic (and current, for that matter) events, I had no clue about the things that occurred back in the Soviet Union.
The movie opens with coverage from the 1988 Olympics with the Soviet Union winning the Gold medal. But then we find out that most of the team was made up of Lithuanians. You see, the Soviets had taken over their country and pretty much forced those players to play with their team. But then for the remainder of the film, we hear the stories of how the Lithuanians fought for their right to represent their own country in the 92′ Olympics.
Of course, this is all very inspirational stuff. There is no denying that. But as a stand alone Documentary, its focus is ruined by trying to tackle too many subjects and getting a bit heavy-handed. Instead of just focusing on the Basketball team, which by itself if already plenty interesting, the movie fills us in on what has happened to Lithuania and how the Soviets invaded it. We see old footage of executions and atrocities. I thought this was a bit too much. I know why they included it. I get that they are trying to make the impact even more effective for when we see the Lithuanian team play the Soviets in the 92 Olympics. Still, I found it unnecessary.
There was also a subplot involving a current Lithuanian player trying to get on an NBA team. I guess there was kind of a point to it, but every time the movie stopped and showed this dude training to get into the USA, it took me out of the 1992 story. Like I said, the lack of focus makes for a lackluster Documentary. The final footage of the 1992 game between the Soviets and the Lithuanians is engaging stuff, but there is a lot of heavy-handed padding that gets in the way of what could have been an inspirational sports Doc. ★★ (out of ★★★★)
– Not Rated but has footage of some horrific atrocities. Probably should be R.
– 1hr 31min.