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|Index||62 reviews in total|
This documentary was released in 1999. You have to wonder,
how would it have been handled if it were made after 9-11-01?
No doubt the title would have been something else as the events of one day in September, 2001, have massively overshadowed those of one day in September, 1972.
I must say that as a young filmmaker just starting out, as I assume many of you may be as well, I truly hesitate to publicly critique the efforts of others. Many times I think we misunderstand the intentions of those we judge and rush to make our misinformed voices be heard. So I try to avoid dogmatism. TRY.
I bought ONE DAY by chance, just strolling through a video store. I never heard of the events (which I find sad) dropped $20 or so, took it home, and took it in.
For the majority, well done. Coherent, effective film rhetoric. Invigorating montage of athletes doing what they do best, set to uplifting score -"everything's peachy in Munich." - stark contrast of things to come. Airline hostage aftermath held interest as well.
I have to agree with what many are saying about the choices made when revealing the outcome, though - questionable tone of music here. Perhaps in the context of a drama based on a true story, this sequence might sit better. But as documentary...I dunno. I'm thinking DOG DAY AFTERNOON - very similar TRUE story, effectively dramatized. Except DOG DAY had no score. When it comes to documentaries, especially those dealing with sensitive crisis, loss of life, etc, if the filmmaker would take time out to imagine themself a relative to those affected, or perhaps a survivor themself, sitting in the audience, watching the film, how would they respond to the given cinematic depiction?
I watched this movie, in Sydney, the day before the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. How quickly we forget events from our recent past. If the authorities response to the terrorist situation wasn't so tragic, it would be laughable. I thought the shooting of JFK was a monumental government debacle and cover up - well there is another to rate on a par with that. What a scoop for the makers of the documentary to snare the one surviving terrorist - it certainly added to the chilling effect of the documentary. I give it a rating of ten, and on par with the only other documentary I have given, a ten, When We Were Kings.
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!
"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.
It's quite striking in watching documentaries with newsreel footage
from, say the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s that the people who look the most
outdated (ridiculously so!) are American network television newsmen.
With other people in old footage, fashions and haircuts may change over
the decades but no individuals appear clownish in outdated somewhat
clothes or grooming.
In any given period, though, network television newsmen are always exaggerated comic caricatures of that period's look.
Another documentary I saw recently in which this was apparent was "How to Survive a Plague."
One Day in September (1999)
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
Very good, Oscar-winning documentary taking a look at the tragic 1972 events at the Munich Olympic games where eleven Israeli athletes were taken hostage by Palestinian terrorists. Through interviews and archival footage we hear about the planning of the event, the taking of the athletes, the negotiations to have them freed and then the tragic events that led to their deaths. Outside some questionable uses of music, this is a pretty strong documentary that features some great interviews with many of the people on the scene. We get interviews with some of the police negotiators, family members of victims and most shockingly is the last living terrorist who for the first time talks about the operation. There have been quite a few documentaries on this subject but this one here is without question one of the most interesting because of the people that were interviewed. It's was great getting to hear from the people who were involved in the negotiations and of course it was interesting to hear from the last remaining terrorist. With narration from Michael Douglas, the film does a very good job at mixing the interviews with the archival footage and it really gives you a great idea of the events and everything that was going on. This is especially true when you see some live TV broadcasts and learn that this hurt the police because the terrorist were inside watching and seeing that a raid was about to happen, which caused the first rescue mission to be canceled. The blunders of the German police are also on full display and it's really shocking to see how badly the entire thing was handled and especially the finale at the airport. Then, of course, there's the supposed hijacking, which led to the three surviving terrorists to get off without being punished (for the time).
The core power of this documentary is the intelligently and very
touching story as told by Ankie Spitzer, the wife of one of the
athletes involved in this.
Otherwise, this is a very straight-forward story of how the Olympic Games were hit by terrorists who took the Israeli squad hostage, making some quite incredible demands, and how the "rescue-mission" was completely botched by the German government, kind of shoot-aim-ready, in that order. I'm amazed by how it seems that very few people/governments were genuinely interested in helping out. Also, it felt very weird to me that the Olympics went on despite of the hostage-situation, which happened in the compound.
The soundtrack to this documentary is quite bewildering at times, except when slo-mo film is shown of athletes competing. Michael Douglas' drawling voice is - thankfully - not applied often throughout the documentary.
All in all: interesting, but if it weren't for Ankie Spitzer and a few other voices chiming in here, there wouldn't be much more than a cinematic equivalent of a Wikipedia entry to this.
When I first saw this documentary, it floored me. My amazement had more to do with the events depicted than with the film itself, but all in all I highly recommend it. Some will complain that the documentary is not strictly objective, and I will admit there is some audience manipulation -- nothing unwarranted, though. It's rather one-sided as well, with only a brief look into the Palestinian motives and a much longer and more sympathetic treatment of the Israeli victims . . . but it's hard to get too worked up on terrorists' behalf. Other than these minor complaints, I thought the documentary was stylish, fascinating, and well paced. Viewers should leap at the chance to learn about this historical moment, especially if you are only vaguely aware that such an event took place (as I was). One Day in September is enlightening, sobering, and (at times) mind-boggling. Check it out.
People forget or perhaps were not old enough or around to remember the first blockbuster terrorist attack by Arafat's PLO. To those who fall under those categories, this documentary should be mandatory. Additionally, two things this documentary shows which should be well remembered is how happy Arabs were and are to kill Jews, and 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. A job well done by those involved in this project from top to bottom.
The most moving thing on film I've seen since Schindler's List. Despite
what others have said about the film being biased or one-sided (I don't
what part of the Palistinian side needs to be shown to justify what took
place in Munich), this film shows in magnificent detail the events of that
The footage is masterfully played out, and even though you know what is coming, it grips you like few events can.
9.5 out of 10
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