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|Index||60 reviews in total|
"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.
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
Judging from previously posted reviews, "One Day in September"
obviously is being seen by many people who cannot remember September 5,
1972. Those who can will appreciate the musical score, which might have
been in the heads of those (English speakers) present that day. Also,
anyone of any age above toddler 33 years ago will understand that the
director of this film harks back to a day when Israel gained
unquestioning support in the West.
It has been my privilege to speak to a number of (mostly) American athletes who were in Munich that day. The stories they tell go beyond even the bizarre and amazing revelations presented as fact in "One Day in September". Others have traveled down this path before, in print, on TV and in the official film of the XX Olympiad, the interesting but very uneven "Visions of Eight". The whole truth is too complex to be told. Surprised? By 1999, both Alexander Scourby and David Perry were gone. The filmmakers settle for Hollywood heavyweight Michael Douglas as offscreen narrator. James Earl Jones might have been a better choice, but the dialogue track is so poorly written that no voice, no matter how dramatic, could have saved it.
Surely there were better choices for the Feature Documentary Oscar that year?
I found this film, with its blurred boundaries between thriller and documentary, rather compelling and hard to look away from. My comments here are really more about the criticisms of the film than the film itself. I've read several comments about ONE DAY IN September from Europeans lamenting its treatment of the Germans and Palestinians. As an American, I admit much more sympathy for Israel than Palestine (despite the USA's shameful record on race, at least we didn't launch the Holocaust), but the film is more about the killing of the innocent (and bungled German efforts to save them) than a deep historical treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (For that, I'd recommend FIFTY-YEAR WAR, a PBS Frontline documentary.) And I'm not sure it's totally unfair to condemn the Germans for failing to even have an anti-terrorist unit, considering that terrorism was already a rising problem in Europe by 1972. This film isn't objective and isn't obligated to be -- if a counterpart film appears, I'd certainly watch, but I don't expect it to elicit much sympathy on my side of the pond. (And, in case anyone thinks I'm a right-wing lunatic, I've never voted Republican and oppose the current war.)
This was my first exposure to what happened in September 1972.
I would start to get into it, then they start doing all this wacked split screen junk. And they fill the whole movie with rock music. It is in very poor taste to have a rock song blaring while pictures of dead bodies are being shown. This could have been a good documentary, but they screwed it up big time.
If Kevin MacDonald wanted to make a kind of action documentary out of his film of the hostage taking at the 1972 Munich Olympics he's succeeded, if only in making the sort of drecky, tin-eared action film you'd find in the archives of 1980's schlockmeisters Golan-Globus. From the NFL films-style montage of athletes at the games that pads the movie at various ill-advised points, to the shrill use of seventies rock music, the movie is gunned past it's natural rhythm so often that the technical flaws overwhelm attention to the outrageous story underneath it all. It's as if somebody furiously copied every trick in Errol Morris' book (down to the dead giveaway use of Philip Glass) and got so excited about doing them that they forgot to do anything original as well.
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