Sundance 2012: Basketball Documentary 'The Other Dream Team' Selling to Film Arcade and Lionsgate
The film, directed by Marius Markevicius, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 21.
The Other Dream Team, a sports/politics documentary about the Lithuanian basketball team that competed at the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, is selling to Film Arcade and Lionsgate. The deal for North American rights is not yet finalized but is expected to be in the mid-six figures range. The film will receive a theatrical release.
A source said that several international companies are still pursuing Dream Team, which is expected to hit U.S. theaters before the Summer Olympic Games begin July 27 in London.
Dream Team, directed by Marius Markevicius, premiered to a warm reception at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 21. It screened in the festival's U.S. documentary competition section. The film chronicles the effort by Lithuanian athletes, who were once forced to compete for the U.S.S.R., to field a team at the Barcelona Games, famous for the American "Dream Team" of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. The Lithuanian team ended up earning the bronze medal, beating Russia in the process.
"It was the definition of a passion project -- I am 100 percent Lithuanian," Markevicius said. "I followed these guys' careers from the time I was young kid. Once they got their independence and got their own team the story kind of wrote itself."
The film tells a Rocky-like sports story against the political backdrop of post-Cold War Eastern Europe, and it includes the perspective of players and executives from the National Basketball Association, which was just starting to embrace foreign-born players. Along the way to the Olympics, the Lithuanian team catches the eye of members of the Grateful Dead, leading the team to wear tie-dyed uniforms. Markevicius includes interviews with sports luminaries such as Bob Costas, Bill Walton and NBA Commissioner David Stern, and Lithuanian basketball players Arvydas Sabonis and Sarunas Marciulionis.
"I always knew this story had universal elements," Markevicius said. "It is a underdog story. It is the story of a country's quest for freedom and is ultimately about how basketball helped forge the Lithuanian cultural identity."
Marciulionis, who went on to play for the NBA's Golden State Warriors, attended the Sundance premiere along with a handful of Lithuanian players. At a Deer Valley reception following the screening, Marciulionis said the film brought tears to his eyes. "This is a story that is bigger than sports," he said.
Producers are Markevicius and Jon Weinbach. Co-producers are Linas Ryskus and Jennifer Cochis. The film was financed by The Basketball Future Foundation, a Lithuanian youth basketball nonprofit founded by Sabonis and Marciulionis.
Graham Taylor and Deb McIntosh of WME handled the sale for the filmmakers.
The film is the first acquisition by distributor Film Arcade, which was launched before the start of Sundance by Miranda Bailey, Matthew Leutwyler, Andy Bohn and Jason Beck.