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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
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
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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
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
and joking with the prisoners, a momentary respite for the viewer as it
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.
"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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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
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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