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One Day in September
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Reviews & Ratings for
One Day in September More at IMDbPro »

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14 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

A Solid Documentary, and response to some criticism

Author: quest-21 from United States
22 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.


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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Strong, Powerful Documentary

Author: Cheddar from Pittsburgh, PA
12 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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12 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Bias in the film?

Author: LonesomeDove from North Carolina, USA
28 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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18 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

The Germans Bungled Everything

Author: simuland from San Francisco
30 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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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

From everything I've read here, completely misunderstood...

Author: si-wilkins from Sheffield, UK
22 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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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

commentary on commentary plus

Author: Gabriel Relgeiz from washington dc
30 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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10 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Intriguing, Tense, Compelling

Author: Michael Fleischhacker from United States
11 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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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

One Day in September

Author: julie_stroup from United States
8 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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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Tragic and deeply disturbing

Author: CH-14 from Sydney, Australia
10 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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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

what can i say?

Author: Chrysanthepop from Fraggle Rock
29 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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