I don’t write movie reviews. But I just watched a terrific documentary about the tragic, broken friendship between Yugoslavian basketball superstars Vlade Divac and the late, great Drazen Petrovic called Once Brothers and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is a short film that celebrates basketball, friendship, life, and the little petty things in life that we always mean to put behind us but sometimes never get a chance to do.
Before tonight the only moments in any movies that ever made me cry were the “I love Brian Piccolo” speech in Brian’s Song and the ending of Apollo 13. But I’ll tell you this. If you don’t drop a tear after Vlade Divac ventures back into Crotia for the first time in twenty years, a country where he is still treated as anathema so many years later, just to lay flowers at the grave of his long lost teammate and say “Its good to see you again… my friend”, then your heart pumps milk. That’s all I’ve got to say.
Footnote: Toni Kukoc (a Croatian like Petrovic) also has a fascinating role in the whole story. Watch especially for the footage of the interview with him done in 1992 at the height of the Yugoslavian civil war. His voice is expressing one sentiment (that it would be wrong at that time to associate with Divac) but his face is clearly reflecting his conflicted feelings toward his former teammate. No actor could replicate something so genuine.
Footnote 2: How great was that generation of Yugoslavian basketball players? Divac and Kukoc’s body of work speaks for itself. But many don’t remember Petrovic. Drazen Petrovic was certainly one of the greatest jump shooters who ever lived. I just looked up his statistics. For his career he was +50% from the field, and he was a long range shooter! My memories of him were of a player who had a lightning quick release and who sort of pushed his shot out on a line and simply rifled the nets with it.