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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>
Director Kevin MacDonald finally managed to persuade the surviving terrorist Jamal Al Gashey to talk on camera after eight months of fitful negotiation and numerous aborted meetings in secret locations. Al Gashey specified certain conditions prior to their actual meeting in an Arab country insisting MacDonald was to travel alone, not to inform anybody where he was going and provide a wig and moustache for Al Gashey to disguise himself when in front of the camera. The interview piece used in the documentary was filmed by somebody Al Gashey trusted. See more »
Himself - Narrator:
With the help of members of the East German team the terrorist leaders had entered and studied the Olympic village in the days prior to the attack. Now they headed straight for the Israeli men's quarters.
Himself - Narrator:
The negotiators knew nothing about the terrorists except what they saw. Three were visible at any one time. Issa, the leader, his face blackened with shoe polish. Tony, second in command, usually at the first floor window wearing a cowboy hat. And another man guarding the balcony door.
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I remember the 1972 Olympics from a kid's perspective (with no TV set at home). American swimmer Mark Spitz was its big star, everybody knew him. It really was the most modern and most hip event ever planned in Europe. The best architects and the best artists and designers of Germany were employed to build an Olympic village that still reflects the openness and optimism of the era. Even the logo, a kind of a spiral made of rays, is unforgettable. (The original movie Rollerball was largely filmed in the Olympic village).
One Day in September catches the atmosphere that preceded the terrorist attack perfectly, in that sense it is an accomplished exercise in style. I think there really was a kind of innocence connected with it, people truly believed that sports could be a means to bring enemies closer and that the Olympic area was regarded as something like a sacred ground which everyday worries couldn't penetrate. I assume that explains very much the clumsy reaction of the German authorities when they were faced with the act of desecration" that constituted the callous act of the Palestinian terrorists. (I think the German officials who were ready to be interviewed for this documentary are unduly criticized for what some call indifference. Must have been hard enough for them to reminisce about something terrible for which I believe they feel at least partly responsible).
The spirit of the Munich Olympics ended with that tragedy, and the Yom Kippur war the following year with the ensuing oil crisis changed the outlook on the future completely. Somehow I feel we still suffer from the shattered hopes of 1972. And where are the Palestinians now? Terrorism doesn't pay.
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