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|Index||62 reviews in total|
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.
"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.
Having watched the film 21 Hours At Munich the day before, I expected a
little more from this and was slightly disappointed. It recounts the
actual events very well but little more. Very little time is spent
digging into the thoughts and emotions of the principles involved.
I learned a little more about a few of the Israeli athletes but the interview with the only surviving terrorist was actually quite pointless. Nothing much was gained from talking to him except the fact that he's still quite proud of the atrocities he committed against innocent people. I seriously hope a bullet finds this man before he is allowed to die of natural causes.
I agree with other reviewers that blasting Deep Purple's "Child In Time" while showing a slide show of the burnt and shot corpses of Israeli athletes and their captors was very gratuitous. It would have been more effective and more respectful if that scene were silent.
The most disturbing claim of the film (narrator Michael Douglas could hardly hold his disgust) was the charge that Germany colluded with Black September to have the three surviving terrorists released under false pretenses. It's quite ironic that what started as an attempt to clean up the stain of six million murdered Jews ended up not only with more murdered Jews but Germany denying justice for their murders. Hypocrites!
Now what I'd like to see is a documentary about the reprisal killings. The fiction that was Sword Of Gideon and Munich will not suffice.
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