Tuesday, November 19, 2013

EUFF 2013 Film Review - Dream Team 1935

Set in the run up to the Second World War. Dream Team 1935  based on true events tells the story of the first European Basketball championship. The main players are the members of the Latvian team, its coach, his wife, neighbours and the leaders of the Latvian Sports Committee. Basketball was a much different game in the mid thirties. Every possession started with a jump ball there was no inbounds pass, free throws were shot underhand and the players were not specialist. As a sign of the times in Latvia the leading players were either from the University or from the Army Sports Club team.

The brains behind the team was Vlademars Baumanis (Janis Amanis) and excellent tactician and student of the game. He is set with the task of bringing players together from rival squads, molding them into a team and getting them to Geneva for the championship with little money or support. Baumanis' first move is to hire a strength and conditioning coach. The next to practice drills over and over again. The third improvise using any location available to practice; make the uniforms by the hand led his wife Elvira (Inga Aslina) and cut travel and lodging expenses to the bare bones.

Director Andrejs Ekis sets a comfortable pace to the production featuring a soundtrack peppered with swing and big band standards. The film is shot in a straight ahead manner not suffering the mistake of overusing of slow motion sequences or reaction shots that befall many sport movies.

The piece features many stand out scenes that drive the plot. A particular forceful one is Baumanis challenge to get his team to finally break their long standing rivalries forcing them to work together off the court to accomplish a goal. Another piece of Baumanis psychology is the approach he used to get the University Sport top players to join the National team despite being coach for the arch rival Army team.

Costume Designer Natalia Zamahina did wonderful work on this project. Starting with the look and material of the players uniforms continuing with the players' formal attire especially the wardrobe of the Swiss team and concluding with the casts regular daily attire. A special mention has to go to the hats. Just about everyone wore one at this time and Zamahina produced a multitude of different versions that spanned the era.

Production designers Martins Milbrets and Neils Matiss were the other main contributors that recreated the time.  Their initial stand out piece is the military hanger that is transformed into a basketball court for the opening game in the film between University Sport and the Army team followed by the intricate detail of the train that team travel on first to Lithuania and then on to Geneva. The last and most spectacular is the Sports centre in Geneva the host site of the 1935 Championship.

Janis Amanis gives an energetic and relentless performance as Valdermars Beaumis the coach, leader and vision behind the team. Inga Alsina is sturdy as his wife who is very supportive willing to do anything to help not giving up on the dream even when her husband begins to weaken when faced with a mountain of obstacles. The players on the team fall into their traditional roles with no one performance rising above the other.  The group to watch are from the network of friends and neighbours that orbit the Beaumis home some times criticizing but in the end responding when called upon.

Aigars Garaba has produced a very watchable film on a fresh topic from a nation with a burgeoning film industry. The narrative of an underdog overachiever is always attractive and the performances are on balance solid. The costume, production and prop departments skillfully bring the viewer to in to the mid thirties. The film continually emphasizes that proper preparation will lead to a successful outcome each and every time. The capsules explaining the postscipt of each member of the troupe is a sobering touch highlighting how fast ones fate can change. Dream Team 1935 is a film I can definitely recommend.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

Dream Team 1935 | Aigars Garaba | Latvia/ Switzerland  | 2012| 120 Minutes.

Tags: Sports Firsts, European Basketball, 1935 Events, Innovation, Bureaucracy, Determination.

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