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The 1972 Munich Olympics were interrupted by Palestinian terrorists taking Israeli athletes hostage. Besides footage taken at the time, we see interviews with the surviving terrorist, Jamal Al Gashey, and various officials detailing exactly how the police, lacking an anti-terrorist squad and turning down help from the Israelis, botched the operation. Written by
Jon Reeves <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When I was a kid my father used to say our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized. Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They have now said there were eleven hostages; two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight. They're all gone.
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"One Day in September" is a phenomenal documentary. Its focus is on the hostage situation during the 1972 Munich Olympics when Palestinian terrorists took Israeli athletes prisoner. The film does something which I think any great documentary should when it covers or explores historical events. It frames the entire hostage crisis in a larger context. Yes, the film covers 21 hours of September 5th on which the hostage situation commenced and (one could say) resolved itself. However, in order to understand the reactions of the German government, the Israeli government, the media and the Olympic Games' fans and participants, the film discusses the German desire to create the atmosphere of peace to erase the stigma of the 1936 Olympics, then full of Fascist propaganda. It touches on the ongoing Israel-Arab conflict. It touches on the meaning of the Olympics.
"One Day in September" never strays from its focus, however, which is to document the hostage crisis and what it meant. What makes the film great, aside from its intelligent approach to the subject, is how well the atmosphere of the hostage situation is carried across. By the end of the film you do feel like you've watched the news for a day, glued to the TV screen hoping that the people will make it out alive. Watching it, you are reminded of how ill-prepared states are for terrorist attacks (still rings true even recently) because of the ulterior motives of statesmen. A lot of what happens at the state, political level, happens because it has to look good. The Germans were unprepared for the terrorists because they thought that extreme police security would welcome images of pre-War Olympics in Germany. They wanted to appear a certain way. The same went for how they handled the crisis.
The film, like many terrorist crises, ends with a tragedy. What remains with the viewer is not only the deep sadness at how one of the most peaceful world events turns into one of the most hateful, but also how incredibly contemporary those events from over thirty years ago still seem.
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