One Day in September (1999) Poster

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9/10
A Fine Documentary
canadude22 May 2004
"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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Don't watch this just before bedtime!
claudecat17 January 2002
Watching this documentary is a harrowing experience. I think the DVD version is unique in that even its menu page looks terrifying. By the end of the film, however, I was more angry than scared, because of the amazing level of incompetence German and Olympic officials showed in handling the hostage situation. The media also behaved abominably, broadcasting play-by-play accounts of the police's plans right into the ears of the terrorists. It made me think that the Bush administration might be partially correct in keeping the media in the dark about American military activities in Afghanistan.

I don't understand why some people felt the film didn't give the "context" of the kidnapping. I think Jamal al Gashey, the only kidnapper left alive now, explained quite clearly why he did what he did. But if the film had spent an extra hour discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, would that have made a difference? In my mind, nothing justified the kidnapping of athletes who by their very presence at the Olympics were trying to further world understanding. I can't think of many things that do justify holding innocent hostages for ransom. The director seems to feel that way too. Apparently that makes the movie too biased for some viewers.

As for the comment that the movie "demonizes" the kidnappers, I don't agree. The filmmakers include a German official's statement that, if he had met him in a different situation, he would have liked the terrorist spokesman, Issa. al Gashey tells some very human stories, such as an ironic account of getting into the Olympic village with the help of American athletes out after curfew, and he insists that the plan was never to murder the Israelis. And al Gashey's brief but affecting account of being exiled from his childhood village does a lot more to argue the Palestinian side of the conflict than any brutal hostage-taking scheme. Too bad he never has realized that.

Interestingly, filmmaker Kevin MacDonald wrote that in Israel he has been accused of giving too much time to the Palestinians. He also notes that Simon Reeve wrote a companion book to the movie, because "there were many aspects of the story we could not include in a 90-minute film." It's a pity the existence of the book isn't publicized more (assuming it's any good).

I do wish the film had spent more time discussing the aftermath of the tragedy, and that MacDonald had used his incredible opportunity of interviewing the last remaining terrorist to ask him some more hard-hitting questions, instead of being satisfied with a step-by-step account of what the kidnappers did that day. (However, I just read that it was extremely difficult for MacDonald to get al Gashey to talk at all.

I wasn't completely convinced that the Germans colluded with the terrorists in the Lufthansa hijacking, and would have liked to see evidence for that. I would also have liked to learn more about the Black September group. Basically, I think the film should have been longer. If it was kept to its current length for some marketing reason, I think the sponsoring studio should rethink that rule.

However, the only choice I really wish the filmmaker had not made was to accompany extremely gruesome shots of bodies with loud psychedelic music. It would have been more respectful to show the images in silence.

Watching the film in light of the events of a day in September of 2001, and after, makes me think that the world hasn't come very far since 1972, in terms of solving the Middle East's problems.
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9/10
I remember...
dbborroughs1 March 2004
One of my strongest memories of my grandparents farm was of watching the 1972 Olympics on their TV while vacationing there. I have faint memories of the tragedy that transpired thirty odd years ago and watching this documentary brings it all back for me.

This is one of the best documentaries out there. It tells simply and clearly what happened and why. Using both news footage of the event and interviews conducted recently, amazingly the interviews include one with the only surviving terrorist who is now in hiding, this story tells the tale completely and compellingly. You get sucked into it even though you know whats going to happen, or think you do. The amazing thing about this film is that even if you know what happened it still manages to surprise you with new information that wasn't available before.

This is a sad story told compellingly.
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10/10
Tremendous research and footage of an unspeakable act.
grandcosmo6 November 2001
As someone who was glued to ABC in 1972 during the entire terrorist act this very well done documentary brought back horrible memories. But the memory of these murders must be kept alive because they obviously are not being taught to our children in school as the comments by someone who had never heard of the Olympic massacre point out.

The director pulls out all stops in presenting the story using archival footage, computer models, musical montages, film of the present day sites and interviews with the participants with the most noteworthy one being with the sole surviving murderer. The only criticism I have of the film is that the flashy editing sometimes works to trivialize the incidents.

It is very illuminating to read the prior comments made about this film. It is also very sad to see the morally bankrupt calls for putting the murders "in perspective" as if anything could justify the cold blooded massacre of innocents. But of course we hear those justifications today over the most recent massacres.
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9/10
Captures the feel of an era
manuel-pestalozzi28 April 2006
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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8/10
A Solid Documentary, and response to some criticism
quest-2122 December 2005
It would appear that many people believe that the documentary format should be held to some sort of objective, news-gathering standard. Whenever two clips are spliced together, regardless of the content there is some editorializing. A documentary is an editorial. If you want nothing more than unopinionated truth, than the only avenue open to you is uninterrupted security camera footage. You can, and sometimes should, disagree with the opinions offered by the documentary filmmaker as a critical viewer, but one faulting the filmmaker for offering an opinion is like criticizing water for being wet. The line that must be discerned is whether the filmmaker is overly deceptive or insidious in trying to convince you of his or her opinion. This is a line that can be very difficult to draw.

Mr. Ruvi Simmons of London does not seem to realize these basic tenets of documentary film-making: "One Day in September, however, concentrates more on the human interest of the event itself, neglecting background information in order to convey a one-sided and grossly biased perspective on a tragic occurrence." I am a filmmaker, and I know that as such one must choose a theme and a perspective for a feature length documentary. The main problem that this person has with the film is that he is "that it neither explores the underlying issues behind the Israeli-Palestinian tensions." This is a 2 hour film, not a 40 hour mini-series. There is no way that the filmmaker could have adequately explored the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and still told the story that he or she intended: the story of the hostage crisis at the Games of '72. Mr. Simmons also took offense at the filmmaker for vilifying the terrorists who perpetrated this plot. I do not need to offer a critical retort as any logical person can understand why this statement is foolishness. It sounds as though Mr. Simmons feels as though the terrorists were justified in hurting innocent athletes a continent removed from their conflict. Obviously, this person would dislike this documentary (although he does not mention that the documentarian interviewed one of the terrorists to present his side of their story).

If you want to have a solid introduction to the acts of terrorism at the Games of '72, then this is a good work to watch. It is true that the thriller-style is a bit gimmicky, but it does add somewhat to the suspense if you do not know the outcome. If you are intending to see the film, "Munich," then this is probably a good primer (I have not yet seen it as it has not been released). Just remember, this film is just as much an editorial as Spielburg's film will be.

~C
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7/10
Contentious, exciting and full of dread.
alice liddell7 June 2000
In Britain at least, this film has been strongly criticised by hardly disinterested intellectual heavyweights like Edward Said and Tom Paulin. The main argument against the film is that it takes place in an historical vacuum, that it shows members of the 1972 Israeli Olympic team being taken hostage by Palestinian terrorists, but it does not explain the political reasons why this happened. This is largely true - although there is brief mention at the beginning of the horrific camp conditions Palestinians suffered in their own homeland appropriated by Israel, it says nothing about this highly contentious appropriation, about the natural urge to struggle against it.

This is underscored by a blatantly manipulative structure - while the representative of the hostages is (necessarily) solitary, anonymous, in hiding, talking in shadows (the other surviving terrorists were murdered by Israeli assassination squads; this information is recorded in a coda that

seems like some kind of chilling reward for the audience); the dead men are shown as almost saintly - pictured getting married, with babies, smiling, honest, healthy, sporty, part of a community and tradition - one story talks about the high-minded ideals of one coach who fraternised with his political enemies from Lebanon.

Aside from the dubious shamelessness of this manipulation, I don't really have a problem with the film's focus. Coming from a country where political terrorists have, for thirty years, been slaughtering wholesale largely apolitical citizens in the name of justice, who have used bogus political ideology as a front for gangsterism, I am somewhat out of sympathy with anything that proclaims humanitarian motives and leaves innocent people dead. Critics complain that ONE DAY ignores the story of the Palestinians, their feelings of repression and injustice - and it is unlikely a film on this subject will have a voiceover from a powerful Hollywood player, and win an Oscar - but to do this would abstract the event, would turn it into a political chess game, and not a ghastly abomination where real people, far too young, with families, are unaccountably murdered. It is the stuff of paranoid modernist literature - you wake up one morning with all your friends, and by sheer random chance, you're held hostage and killed.

So if we agree that the film is fatally biased, we can see that it has many virtues. ONE DAY has been called a thriller - it was literally so for me because I'd never heard about this atrocity - and the techniques used (the pounding score, the edgy editing, the foregrounding of clocks and deadlines, the withholding of explanatory, hindsight information) all contribute to a sense of almost unbearable tension. I don't know how this is for people (the majority) who know the story.

About half way through, as you begin to realise how things will probably turn out, the film stops being a thriller, and becomes an exercise in dread: time contracts, and you hope the film goes on forever so that the intolerable denouement is postponed. It is unbearable. But after the film you begin to question the ethics of all this. One of the themes of the film is the media treatment of the crisis, the reprehensible desire of the Olympic Committee to get it out of the way as quickly as possible - one victim's wife accuses the media of turning the crisis into a 'show'. But this is precisely what Macdonald does, turning human tragedy into an entertainment by turns kinetic and visceral.

Other plusses are the revelations of shocking, farcical German incompetence, desperate to reveal deNazification by having no security whatsoever; the callous, indifferent face-saving here by representatives of the police is the film's true, sickening, achievement. The brief montages of the sporting events, the whole point of the Olympics, are exhilirating, soundtracked to an uplifting Moog Bach, making you wonder why people can't make better sports movies.

ONE DAY has been compared to Errol Morris's documentaries, and you can see, superficially, why - the Phillip Glass score, the distortion of footage and time, the letting authority hang itself. But Morris, in a film like THE THIN BLUE LINE, is concerned not so much with presenting a truth as destroying the official version, exposing its weaknesses, repressions, lies. His recreated scenes, heightened images, distancing effects, all point to the artificiality of the official 'truth'. Morris uses documenatary's claim to authenticity and truth, to expose the inauthenticity of 'truth'. His is a critical cinema.

MacDonald, however, IS offering official truth here - there is no real difference between what he says and the ABC news reporter. This is not a critical film, pandering to firmly entrenched ideologies. Further, the documentary as a genre is limited. It can tell us about facts, analyses. It can reveal witness. There is an astonishing frisson in being able to see these terrorists walking and talking on the big screen, that projection of fantasies, like people, not mythical constructs. But documentary can never get at people's inner lives, and as this is what real life really is, documentaries seem thin and superficial, a betrayal of life. And so, finally, ironically, the victims DO become abstract - simply that, victims. We know there is more to people than a handful of photographs and highly partial witness.
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10/10
Strong, Powerful Documentary
Cheddar12 September 2000
One of the most vivid memories of my youth was seeing Jim McKay in his yellow blazer, announcing, "They're all gone" as news broke of the deaths of the Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972. I was a 10 year old who loved sports and the Olympics -- it was the first time an international news event touched and upset me.

Watching "One Day in September" brought it all back. Any documentary about this horrific event is bound to upset and stir emotions, but this is wonderful filmmaking, including some blisteringly well-done editing and use of music of the day.

It is not easy viewing but it is well-worth the time and emotion you will spend. Don't miss this.
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From everything I've read here, completely misunderstood...
si-wilkins22 July 2004
Everything that I've read below completely misses the point that the film seemed as far as I can tell to be making. If you're desperate for it to be making a political point you're bound to be disappointed, especially as that implies that you have a political viewpoint that you want to be confirmed - this film won't do that. It isn't a film about politics - it is a film about people and how people work; about the nature of good and evil (not of good VS evil, as everyone else seems to be reading it). It is ultimately philosophical more than political, and most of all about the nature and effects of what the religious would call "sin". If there was one point that came across it was that humans aren't born evil in the "original sin" type of sense, but they are born *responsive* into a world that contains evil.

The film forces you to be put into a position where you are made to empaphise with people who you strongly disagree with, and this feels distasteful. That's because it is, but it is most definitely valid. One of the early scenes featured the terrorist describing his childhood and how he had grown up in a refugee camp, knowing that his only chance in life came with the possibility of a Palestinian homeland - much as you hated it, you began to find yourself realising that from his viewpoint he had every right to fight for freedom and the opportunity that every child *should* deserve. You also knew that from an objective moral viewpoint his act was heinous and should be punished (after all he wasn't without choice at the point when the act occurred). You were also presented with the irony that the Israeli athlete most focused on was intent on living at peace with those of other races (i didn't see this as an attempt to make a generalisation about the Israelis so much as an attempt to show that generalisations don't work). And so his wife and child are left with the difficult choice of whether to follow the completely natural response of hatred and bitterness or somehow find an alternative way. And then there were the Germans who were keen to either set right or leave behind their shameful past and ended up just providing a stage for the terrorists and a show of their own incompetence in dealing with them.

I'm not saying this film was perfect, but bizarrely considering its subject i don't think it is primarily making a political point.
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Bias in the film?
LonesomeDove28 October 2004
I feel compelled to reply to the many people who say the documentary was completely biased toward Israelis. True, its focus was on the Israelis and their lives, and how they were killed by "evil" fundamentalist Palestinians. However, if you say the film is biased, then you're saying that maybe it should lean a little bit the other way, and tell more about the Palestinian terrorists and their personal plight in the conflict. But how can anyone be sympathetic to terrorists? The point has been brought up that both sides of the conflict experience terrorist attacks, so why should a filmmaker focus on one side more than the other; however, I think the fact that this attack took place at the Olympics, an event that represents the unity of the world and its people, is what makes the attack and this documentary so important. Therefore, Kevin MacDonald, in my opinion, has license to be as biased as he wants toward the Israelis, because they were the focus of this terrible event that occurred during a time that people around the world should have been united under the Olympics banner.
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One Day in September
julie_stroup8 February 2009
I believe that what happened at the 1972 Olympics established a template for a good deal of future terrorist activity. This incident demonstrated for the first time that you could gain a world stage and the world's attention by committing an atrocity. The press has played a tacit role in terrorism since that time. Terrorists are looking for media coverage and know that the best way to get that is by executing attacks at prominent events or on large population centers.

Re. the film, the fact that the German security forces were unprepared is no surprise as there was no precedent for this type of incident in the past. Sadly, many countries including most western countries are quite prepared now.
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commentary on commentary plus
salparadise630 September 2001
First I would like to point out that for me, a 21 year old, One Day was my first exposure to the events, therefore it was informative, for myself atleast. As for the complaint about dehumanizing and downplaying the Palestinians' plight, I believe that argument is garbage. You would have to be LIVING in a vacum not to know their plight, and it's hard to argue that terrorists are human. Besides, the surviving terrorist spoke about talking and joking with the prisoners, a momentary respite for the viewer as it must have been for those involved. As far as absolving the Israeli gov't, the point was obvious and well made, no Israeli and even Jew for that matter could feel safe if the demands were met. And none of criticisms state provide any evidence for their complaints I might add.

That being said, as a Historian, there are some rather speculative aspects to the documentary. For example, Douglas states that the East Germans helped the terrorists scope the place out before hand, but it is unclear whether they knew of their intentions or not (ala the americans helping them in), which is a major fault in the fact presenting. Also rather curious was how Douglas tells how the plane hijacking was a scam, and then states the surviving terrorist confirmed this, which to me indicates they set up this scenario for the interviewee and he merely said 'yes.'

The main point of this documentary is for the viewer to ask how, not why. How could everything fall apart as it did? I left wondering how in Cold War Europe, an extraction team from East Germany, England, France, Russia, ect., could not have been employed within hours and how much did Cold War politics played into that factor. Despite its flaws, One Day is an excellent documentary, as riveting as it is depressing.
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The Germans Bungled Everything
simuland30 December 2000
(Kevin MacDonald, 1999, 92 min.) Documentary about assassination of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at 1972 Olympic games. Noteworthy for exclusive interview with only surviving terrorist, who is in hiding "somewhere in Africa." Composed of interviews with German authorities involved in the episode, TV clips, etc, and narrated by Michael Douglas.

Interestingly, East Germans colluded with the terrorists, showing them around the Olympic village prior to the operation. Truth stranger than fiction. The ineptitude of the West Germans is astounding. Imagine paunchy German cops, clad in athletic sweats, trying to pass themselves off as Olympic athletes, their automatic weapons in plain sight, positioning themselves to launch a "surprise" attack on the apartment in which the hostages are being held while their every move is being televised worldwide; it's only at the very last minute, when they realize the terrorists too are watching them on TV, that they call the raid off. This is the only attempt they make to storm the apartment building.

Even after an Israeli's bullet-ridden naked body has been tossed out a window down to the sidewalk below, the games continue; the International Olympic Committee refuses to stop them; athletes are sunning themselves within sight of the hostage standoff; and, of course, the media has descended like a horde of flies ready to feast on a carcass. Israeli intelligence, the Mossad, offers to send a trained anti-terrorist unit, but the Germans, who have no such attack force of their own, who are in disarray, disorganized, and frankly at a loss as to what to do, refuse.

The terrorists are taken to a nearby airport in helicopters to a waiting jet. German cops, who are stationed in the jet and disguised as a flight crewm at the very last second, just as the helicopters are about to land, chicken out and abandon their posts. The head of Mossad, who by now has joined the Germans at the airport, is incredulous at the lack of professionalism of the whole ambush; also, he accuses the Germans of taking the hostages out of the Olympic village just so the games can continue. Sharp shooters positioned at the airport are not in radio communication with the outside or among themselves, have no idea of how many terrorists there are, and end up shooting each other and killing one of the helicopter pilots who has broken free. The coup de grace, the vilest insult to injury, comes in the aftermath of this debacle: Three Palestinian terrorists survive the gun battle at the airport and are taken into custody. Within days a nearly empty German airliner bound from Beirut to Frankfurt is hijacked by Arab terrorists who demand and obtain the release of the 3 terrorists in custody. One of these 3 later recounts how the whole thing was a setup: the German government colluded with the Arabs to stage the hijacking simply to rid themselves of the captured terrorists and to avoid the embarrassment of a trial.
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9/10
Intriguing, Tense, Compelling
Michael Fleischhacker11 December 2000
"A Day in September" is a compelling and intriguing documentary on the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics in which Arab terrorists took 11 members of the Israeli team hostage. Although we know in advance of the outcome in which all hostages die, the film still keeps the tension high by giving us previously little know and new information and imagry. Shown chronological, the events speak for themselves.

We see West German officials as being too naive and incompetent to handle the crises. Still they refused help from the Israeli government which could have saved lives. Furthermore, we find out that in a half-hearted attempt to cover up their incompetency, they actually conspired to use a fake hijacking to free the surviving terrorists.

We find out that the terrorists had help from East Germany.

We see the terrorists as being as naive as the Germans by actually thinking that their actions would gain them a long term victory. Even when given the chance to justify their actions, the lone surviving member of the terrorist squad reveals these people as basing their value of human life in terms of political necessities.

We learn that arrogant Olympic officials considered the games more important than the lives at stake. The terrorist action was more of an annoyance or inconvenience.

Finally, we see the international media reaction as if this were one big show. One police attempt to free the hostages was aborted because preperations were being carried live on television, thus alerting the terrorists!

But above all, A DAY IN SEPTEMBER serves as a timely warning of the dangers of those to whom the ends justify the means, regardless of the outcome.
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excellent and hard-hitting
didi-55 June 2004
This bleak documentary on the massacre of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics pulls no punches in its depiction of what really did happen. It starts with Anki Spitzer's widow in voiceover recalling her memories of their all-too-brief marriage, before the events of that fateful day unfolds. It seems that these athletes really were political pawns in a global game of chess that ended badly.

Be warned, the documentary doesn't shrink from depicting the aftermath of the last few desperate hours of mistrust and errors. Everyone is at fault here, the officials, the Black September terrorists, perhaps even the athletes themselves - who knows what really caused the mindless and horrible extermination of some many people? Making the story personal brings the tragedy home to the viewer very sharply (and kudos to Michael Douglas for a sensitive narration throughout).

Perhaps the worst thing about viewing 'One Day in September' is that it represents a warning in these terrorist-driven times that such events could always happen again. This film should not just be about what happened then, but about what could happen now and in the future.
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Tragic and deeply disturbing
CH-1410 September 2000
In what appears to be a fairly cynical marketing exercise, this film began showing in Sydney just a couple of weeks before the 200 Games. After reading several articles & excellent reviews, I saw it last night, and I was shocked. Nothing can prepare you for the impact this film has. Knowing the tragic outcome does not take away from the suspense; it doesn't stop you from hoping that the hostages will be saved.

I found the interviews with the widow of one of the murdered hostages, incredibly moving. Her presence in the film grounds it in reality - otherwise, the story seems unbelievable.

I recommend this film to anyone who will be watching the Games -particularly fellow Sydneysiders. All I can say is - I hope we are prepared.
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9/10
A Nutshell Review: (DVD) One Day in September (1999)
DICK STEEL25 December 2005
With the word and controversy out on Steven Spielberg's Munich, instead of settling for a Hollywood drama of the terrorist event that faithful day of the Olympics, you might want to learn more from this Oscar winning documentary.

This documentary uses real footage throughout, with archived news reels, pictures, photos (of the dead, shot, burnt, otherwise), and interviews with family members. But their real coup would be to have interviewed the one and only surviving terrorist who partook in the horror against the spirit of the Olympics.

It also provides those born after 1972, or too young to remember, a look at the events surrounding that day - from the Olympic organizers who are too arrogant to suspend the games, the indifference of the athletes in the Olympic Village, the lack of adequate security (as compared to today), to the politics behind the entire affairs.

Perhaps what will rile you are the West German's botched attempt to rescue the hostages.

They were surprisingly ill-prepared, deploying untrained teams, lack of proper equipment, and had to recall countless of attempts, before the final embarrassment at the airport, which exposed their severe weakness at handling terrorist incidents. All the hostages were killed in the confrontation, when the terrorists threw hand grenades and emptied bullets into the helicopters they were in. It's only after this that the Germans formed their anti-terror squad, the GSG9 (Counter-strike players will be familiar with this term).

To make matters worse, there was a cover up and collusion between the Germans and the terrorists when the latter apparently hijacked a Lufthansa flight (with only 12 passengers on board, and no women and children), and the former handed over the 3 surviving terrorists of the Munich incident in exchange for safe passage of the flight.

Which is where Spielberg's movie comes in, following squads of Mossad agents hunting down and assassinating those 3 (1 managed to survive countless attempts on his life), together with others who are implicated or involved in the planning of the Munich operation.

This documentary provides an excellent and compelling background, preparing you for the Munich movie coming soon. Watch this.

Code 1 DVD features a relatively barebones version, containing the usual scene selections, subtitles and bonus trailers. But the documentary itself is worth it.
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dismissive of any pretense to objectivity
cogs4 September 2002
"One Day in September" is an interesting documentary exercise; favouring a thriller structure it seems dismissive of any pretense to objectivity (a quality that is incorrectly expected of the documentary form). I think the problem lies in just how unbalanced the representation is, and I think the film would have benefited from a more rounded view. The film is heavily weighted to a representation which condemns the German authorities and sanctifies the terrorists' victims. The hatchet job done on the Germans is pretty rough – given they were in a fairly untenable position, it's terribly unfair to condemn them in hindsight. This aspect of the film displays remarkable petulance. I have fewer reservations about how the Israelis and the Palestinians are each represented, I guess I don't expect it to be any other way. It's the kind of documentary that demands a responding documentary, but alas, I don't see one forthcoming. With all that said the dynamic structure of "One Day in September" is its most impressive aspect. With all the political implications surrounding the film the best moments are those sequences when the sportsmen and women are set to music. They're invigorating moments and perhaps overshadow the significance of the terrorist incident by contrasting man's evil doings to the eternal beauty of mankind in the pursuit of the limits of his physical capabilities.
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what can i say?
Chrysanthepop29 August 2004
I bought this documentary on DVD. I misread the back and thought that all the hostages were going to be rescued until i saw what actually happened. I was so surprised and I felt so terrible for the hostages and their family. This seemed to be a big gain for the media who broadcast this terrible tragedy as an action-thriller TV-show!The Olympic officials were so careless about what was happening there. Of course, they only cared that the show go on! I was also shocked by the attitude of the West German officials. Most of the hostages could've been saved if the officials were prepared enough! And, they freed the surviving terrorists to cover up their mistakes! I was really disgusted by that. Of course one may argue that it was politics but that's a reason why i hate politics so much. Alright, i think I'm drifting off here. And how could these stupid terrorists think that by hijacking the athletes they will get the Israeli govt to free their prisoners? I was also repulsed by the fact that the surviving terrorists are proud of what they did. My heart goes to the innocent people who have died and their families. There is no excuse to killing an innocent person. No matter what the reason is!
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A striking portrayal of a terrible event
sick_boy420xxx28 April 2001
ONE DAY IN SEPTEMBER is a documentary film about the 1972 Munich Olympic games hostage crisis in which Palestinian terrorists took members of the Israeli team hostage. This film keeps the viewer's interest by telling the story in real-time, with all events in chronological order established by newsreel footage, interviews with people involved and other first-hand accounts. The film ultimately portrays the utter incompetance used by everyone involved to try to resolve the conflict unsuccessfully.

I was not very familiar with the incident before viewing this film, so I personally got a lot out of it. It really is a gripping piece of work, with no sides taken in delivering the true story of what happened that fateful day in September. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the event, or just to history buffs in general. I think almost anyone who sees the film will learn a lot of information about the incident, and I would urge them to do so. Highly Recommended.
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5/10
Works as a thriller, fails as a documentary
ShortestFrame27 April 2005
I can only agree on what most of the user comments here have pointed out: Notwithstanding the thrilling and gripping style - great editing for instance - in which the events are presented, the film as a whole is fairly questionable because of its undeniable intention to bash the Germans and their police force for what happened while at the same time refusing to investigate into other directions. Furthermore, it gives us little more than a glimpse of the terrorists' motivations, feeding the impression that we're watching a piece of propaganda that is - without a doubt - well executed. The probably most unbelievable faux-pas is that at no time during all the interviews the name of the witnesses are shown. Very amateurish! 8/10 for film-making, 2/10 for subject treatment. See it, but be aware of its slanted view!
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Olympic tragedy
stephen-35726 January 2005
This documentary is a revelation for all of us who witnessed on our television sets the hi-jacking of the 1972 Olympics Games by Palestinian terrorists. The ineptness of the German's in every aspect of this tragedy is almost incomprehensible and certainly reprehensible. To hear the interviews with those Germans involved, one would be inclined to share in their obvious amusement at such incompetence were it not for the murder of 11 Israeli athletes. And so one watches this film in three stages, with sadness, disbelief and then anger. For those not yet initiated to the most tragic event in Olympic history, on September 5, 1972, a week into the Olympic Games in Munich, Palestinian terrorists entered the Olympic compound and held hostage 9 members of the Israeli Olympic team, after already killing two who attempted resistance. Their demands were the release of 200 terrorists held primarily by Israel. Israel maintained its policy of "no negotiations with terrorist" while the Germans, anxious to get on with the games, attempted to negotiate a settlement that was never possible. In the end they bungled a rescue operation and all the hostages were murdered. ONE DAY IN September takes a much closer look at the facts, which should be a revelation for those ignorant of the European history of appeasement and the current crisis between radical Islamists and the West. In their desire not to be a target for terrorism, after having three of the Munich terrorists in custody, Germany arranged for the hijacking of a commercial airliner as a means to release their captives with a fictional hostage exchange scheme. One of them still lives to "proudly" tell his tale. The other two were hunted down and killed by Israel, acts that no doubt sparked condemnation from Germany and the UN.
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Reality Wasn't Quite Bad Enough
Karl Self28 April 2002
"One Day In September" is a gripping movie, unfortunately it is full of false allegations and - plainly - lies and manipulations of truth. I would like to point out the most severe instances:

* "The East German olympics team helped the Palestinian terrorists to stake out the premises at the Olympic village." -- Even though the documentary presents this as a fact (as usual, without offering any evidence), as far as I know this allusion is far from being proven. As is evident from the rest of the movie, the security at the 1972 Olympics was generally rather lax and the Palestinians still didn't have a good idea of the premises (they didn't know much beyond the address of the Israeli trainers and hadn't properly planned their escape).

* "The German army had marksmen, but they couldn't be used because of legal red tape." ... The Bundeswehr only introduced "proper" (i. e. specially trained and equipped) marksmen in 1997, until then all they had was so - called ZF = Zielfernrohrschützen which used a regular G3 automatic rifle with a 4* scope (i. e. a regular army rifle and not a specialised sniper rifle).

* "The German government colluded with hijackers of Lufthansa airliner so that they could get rid of the three surviving terrorists." -- Complete and utter nonsense. How on earth could the German government have aided the hijackers? By phoning them and saying "hi, we would like to get rid of the terrorists, could you please hijack a plane so as to give us a flimsy excuse, and could you please hijack flight LH1234 from Beirut coz there are no women and children on board"? In other words, does anyone really think that the Palestinian terrorists needed an official invitation from the German government? Please don't insult my intelligence.

* "The German government gave in surprisingly quickly considering that the hijackers "only" held 12 hostages." -- That is actually one hostage MORE than the Olympics terrorists held. If the German government was quick to give in, it was most likely because they had anticipated this situation, they were very aware that there was practically nothing they could do about it, and were eager to avoid further bloodshed. Basically the movie is blaming the Germans for not sacrificing 12 of their citizens.

* "German government should have consulted Israeli government for permission before handing over Palestinian terrorists." -- What on earth for? They knew the official Israeli position (i. e. never give in to Palestinian terrorists, no matter what the cost) only too well! Exchanging the terrorists for the hostages certainly wasn't very heroic, but the hijackers held 12 hostages, what choice did the government have?

* "German government was quick to hand over the surviving terrorists because they wanted to cover up their blunder." -- What was there to cover up? ALL the hostages, as well as most of the terrorists, were dead, several policemen had been killed or wounded -- the outcome was obviously catastrophic. The head of Mossad along with other independent witnesses was on site in Fürstenfeldbruck. The entire mess was in plain sight, there was nothing to cover up.

Incidentally, one can equally well speculate that the German authorities had NO interest in a trial (because it would have focussed public interest on blunders that led to the death of all the hostages) as well as that they HAD a vested interest so that Germany could be seen as taking a firm stand against terrorism or to reconcile with Israel. On the other hand, you can also speculate that Israel had no interest in a trial because it would have given the terrorists the chance to propagate their political views during the trial, and it would have placed them in a German prison, out of reach for Mossad who wanted to see them dead. The key word here is "speculation".

* Ulrich Wegener and Hans - Jochen Vogel admitted to the collusion of Germany with the Beirut hijackers ... at least that is clearly the impression given by the movie in the following scene (I have translated it partially from German to English, so the verbiage might not be exact):

"The circumstances of the hijack were suspicious [...] One of the Palestinians opined that the whole affair had been staged by the German government in collusion with the terrorists, to avoid further threats to its citizens and to cover up its blunder."

Ulrich Wegener: "I think it's probably true. At that time the mentality was so."

Hans - Jochen Vogel: "On such questions Willy Brandt [the federal chancellor] always made this gesture [shrugs] ... [meaning] I can't say or do more."

You can't hear what questions the interviewer was asking, but I think it is quite clear that it wasn't "did the German government collude with the Beirut hijackers?". I would opine that this scene is pure, manipulative propaganda. If you have the video or DVD, check it out for yourself.

* "German authorities wanted to move the hostages and terrorists out of the Olympic village as quickly as possible so that the games could continue." -- I doubt whether the hijackers were much concerned about what the German side wanted. The initiative came strictly from the terrorists themselves. As Jamal Al Gashey states in his interview, they had been instructed to finish the "operation" within 24 hours, and to demand to be flown out of Germany before this deadline.

* "Germans should have allowed Mossad in.", "Mossad could have solved the situation and prevented bloodshed." -- Mossad is a secret service, not an anti - terrorism police force, which is noted even by the CIA for its ruthless and plainly illegal actions; allowing them to operate in the Olympic village was therefore clearly out of the question. Even on an international level, specialised anti - terrorism forces only came into existence after, and mostly in response to, the September 1972 attentat. CNN states on its website: "Munich was a watershed. In great measure, it has been since 1972 that the general public has submitted to security searches in airports, arenas and other public events -- and learned to live with the threat of terrorism."

* "Germany was criminally negligent about security at the Olympic games." -- This is equal to saying that JFK was negligent to have driven in an open car through Dallas, or that there should have been anti - aircraft missiles on top of the World Trade Center; with hindsight, it is easy to be prophetic. Clearly, not even the Israeli side envisaged that such an attack would have been possible. Also, as the film states, at least some of its representatives came to Munich as a gesture of "we are still alive, you couldn't kill us". So what should the German police have done -- put them under 24 - hour armed surveillance, and house them in a segregated, high - security unit?

* "German authorites handled the crisis incompetently." -- No question, but at the time, and lacking specialised police forces, who wouldn't have? I think they did the best they could and were clearly very concerned about the security of the Israelis; in fact the movie shows that the then secretary for the interior Hans - Dietrich Genscher even offered himself as a hostage.

* "The Olympics should have been interrupted immediately." -- By the way, this decision was handled by the IOC headed by the American Avery Brundage, NOT by the German side. Personally I agree that the Olympics should have been interrupted immediately, and for a longer mourning period, but I can also see that the IOC didn't want to be seen as giving in to terrorists. Typically for the maliciously manipulative style of the movie, IOC members are being shown at a party eating and drinking at the same time as the voiceover tells of their failure to halt the games immediately, thereby suggesting that they didn't care for the plight of the hostages.

I would also like to reply to some of the statements made by previous reviewers: * One reviewer wrote: the "crazed excited facial expression of the Palestinian killers in the interview near the end of the movie reminds me of the faces of the old nazi on stand at Nuremberg" ... at least in the material shown in the movie, the hijackers didn't exhibit any such behaviour, so the producers of "One Day In September" used slow motion and zoomed in on Jamal Al Gashey as he was squinting, essentially using a very manipulative technique that would make even Britney Spears look menacing. In fact Jamal Al Gashey, who at the time of the crime was not even 20 years old, was somewhat of a poster boy terrorist, smiling and friendly looking. And by the way, I would like to know which scenes of the Nuremberg trial you are referring to -- generally the Nazis on trial there were noted for being rather ordinary - looking. For Christ's sake, this isn't Hollywood where all the villains have scars and wear black hats.

* "I had no idea just how ill-prepared, unprofessional, and callously negligent German law enforcement was during the whole affair." -- "Callously negligent" implies that German police wasn't too bothered about the Israelis... "hey, they're only Jews, har, har", and that's obviously unfounded crap. "Ill - prepared" and "unprofessional" -- at the time specialised anti - terrorism units didn't exist in Europe, and practically at all world wide.

* "[this documentary shows how] the German response to the attack was, well, one which many W.W. II era German leaders would have enjoyed---total indifference, even obstruction." -- Just for your information, apart from the fact that not even the movie suggests German indifference or obstruction, the political party in power at that time was the SPD (Social Democrats), who were the only party to have voted, and unanimously, against Hitler's Ermächtigungsgesetz, and who were massively prosecuted by the Nazis. Then federal chancellor and peace Nobel prize winner Willy Brandt spent the Nazi era in exile. Exactly who are you accusing of what?

There is no doubt that severe mistakes were being made that led to the terrible killing of all the Israeli hostages, and the documentary would of course have been entitled to point them out. Instead, the film makers seemed to think that the reality hadn't been quite gruesome enough, so they produced a movie that is nothing less but modern - day propaganda. That the Academy Of Motion Pictures felt it necessary to honour this effort with an Oscar was, in my opinion, a grave mistake.
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Dangerously and unapologetically angry documentary in these times
JwadeG26 September 2004
I hate to say this, but one need do nothing more than read the other reviews of this film to see just what kind of film it is.

This is a film about a terrorist event made with the sole intention of showing the event in an arrogant and accusatory way. The descriptions one can find on the IMDb for this film astound me. Things such as "shows the Palestinians for what they are; happy to kill Israelis" and "shows the nature of good and evil." All of which is exactly what most people tend to do in situations such as these: personalize and humanize the victims while demonizing the proponents.

The film fills in backstory on the German government. Just enough back story, that is, to make one angry at the German government for being "criminally negligent" (despite the fact that this assumes they had any reason to suspect that such an event would take place at the Olympics). It also goes to great lengths to show the Palestinian celebration of the dead men upon their return home, but makes no effort to show what could drive men to such acts... Again, assuming the presence of evil, rather than a logical motive. And the film focuses its efforts on one victim and his widow; clumsily humanizing the story in a way which makes it even more ghastly, yet, as was previously mentioned, by the time the film reaches it's conclusion, we feel absolutely no remorse about the deaths of the terrorists.

This is the kind of film that proposes eye for an eye in regards to terrorism, and inflames hatred of Arabs in the eyes of those who do not understand the motives and do not wish to.

It is blame wrapped up in a convincing package. Using a human tragedy as ammunition to incite anger at the terrorists rather than intelligent reflection on the horror of the action.

It is possible to loathe the action without seeing the perpetrators as inhuman... But you won't find it in this film.

Shameful.
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10/10
Amazingly moving and irritating.
MartinHafer22 December 2013
When the massacre of the Jewish Olympians occurred back in 1972, I was only 8 years old and it's a rather vague memory. Because of this, I looked forward to seeing "One Day in September". However, even if you remember the events rather clearly, you should still see this exceptionally well made film--mostly because the epilogue is rather sad and alarming.

This documentary is narrated by Michael Douglas and consists of many interviews (one of which, inexplicably, is with the surviving terrorist), contemporary footage and a few re-creations using computers. It explains step-by-step how the incidents occurred as well as the aftermath. It's all naturally very sad but also frustrating because the German authorities were so very incompetent--blowing so many opportunities and allowing LIVE news feeds which showed the German policemen sneaking up to the apartment where the terrorists held their victims! Duh. In fact, it's one screw up after another and it is both sad and maddening--especially the epilogue. I'd say more but I don't want to ruin the film. The bottom line is that this is the best look at the events of the time--and is a must-see for anyone wanting to learn about this tragic episode.
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