An apropos title for the film On the Map opens in several cities in Florida this weekend and it’s exciting, heartwarming and inspirational. Set in Israel following the Yom Kippur War, the documentary captures the serious issues of the people, the challenges before them and a team of basketball players that dig deep into their hearts for a chance to get their country recognized as nation in the eyes of the world. This is not an ordinary sports movie, but a historical tribute to the men who made it all happen some 40 years ago.
The sport of basketball has swept Europe with most countries establishing a professional team. With the acceptance of millions of fans it leads to the formation of a European Championship Tournament. Teams in Italy, Spain and Russia dominate the playoffs year after year celebrating their victories with millions of fans in their country. Small, unpretentious Israel knew it would be an uphill battle to ever compete on the European stage with these aggressive nations.
In 1977 they get a break with noted American Tal Brody who graduated from the University of Illinois and chosen number 12 in the NBA draft. But, the Baltimore Bullets never got the chance to have the smart and relentless basketball guard on their team. Following a trip to Israel with the American basketball team where Brody was one of the players to receive a gold medal for their win in Jewish Olympics (Maccabiah Games), he decides to forgo the NBA offer.
Instead he takes an offer to play on team Maccabi Tel Aviv, one of the Jewish national basketball teams. It was a shot in the arm for the lackluster ball team that never made it beyond the first round of the European Championship. After acquiring two other players from America who did not make the cut for the NBA, Maccabi Tel Aviv starts to gel. It’s 1977 and with the likes of the outstanding shooting guard Tal Brody, center forward Auclie Perry, point guard Moti Aresti, power forward Lou Silver, guard Shuki Schwartz, and shooting guard Miki Berkovich the team has to face the mighty Russian Red Army basketball team who had beat the USA in the Olympics in order to get into the finals of the European Cup.
The excitement rises above as Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team moves past the first round of the tournament. Director and writer Dani Menkin keeps his film focused on the events in Israel while he tells the amazing story. Much like the movie Miracle on Ice where the United States had to face off against Russia during the Cold War for the Gold Medal in the Olympics, this has the same kind of feel of unity, nationalism and inspiration. The movie shows the members of the team, including Tel Brady, who now in his twilight years, talks about the team and what they had to do to attempt the overcome the enormous odds against them.
Actual photography of the games and some of their gatherings still exists and are used in the film to show each of the games that lead up to the championship. News articles are flashed across the screen and photos are used in some cases of the people close to the event. Dani Menkin also includes footage of the Yon Kippur war, the Raid on Entebbe, the assault at the Berlin Olympics and other events happening at the time to bring the magnitude of the importance of nationalism that would lend itself to winning the European Cup.
FINAL ANALYSIS: The historical documentary is well made, heartfelt and inspirational. (4 out of 5 stars).
Additional Film Information:
Cast: Tal Brody, Bill Walton, David Stern
Directed and written by: Dani Menkin
MPAA Rating: Not Rated, contains actual war footage
Running Time: 1 hr. 25 min.
Release Date: March 3, 2017
Distributed by: Hey Jude Productions