A film by Kevin MacDonald
One Day in September is a documentary film dealing with the terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympic Games held in Munich, Germany. On September 5, 1972, eight Palestinian terrorists stormed the Olympic Village and killed two Israelis athletes and took another nine Israelis hostage. This began the standoff between the German police and the terrorists.
The documentary starts by letting us know who some of the victims are (though, I suppose if you had no idea what this was about you wouldn t know they were the future victims). The film focuses on one particular Israeli and his wife speaks about him and what kind of man he was. We also get the perspective of Jamal al-Gashey, one of the terrorists. He speaks on camera (though obscured by lack of light) about the planning for the incident. The documentary then tells us about the hopes for the Munich games, the first Olympic games since the 1932 Berlin games when Hitler was the host. The hope was that the games could be a reconciliation after World War II. But then the attack occurred and the standoff began.
From the start, nothing went right. One Day in September shows the ineptitude of the German police throughout the event. One example is that the police put together a task force to rescue the hostages at the Olympic village. Sounds great, but they were doing it in daylight and there were television crews covering the standoff and they barely realized in time that every room in the Olympic village had a television and the terrorists were likely watching every move the police made. It got worse from there. It wasn t until the final rescue attempt at the airport that the ineptitude reached a critical level. I couldn t believe how many things were not taken into consideration, such as the sniper team had no communication with the police so they did not know how many terrorists there were, and two of the snipers didn t have helmets or bulletproof vests so they were pinned down and couldn t take a shot.
I have two main thoughts running through my head about this film. The subject of the film is fascinating. This is something that I want to know about and it is a huge moment in Olympic history (and gets alluded to in the two Steve Prefontaine movies). The other thought is that while the subject was incredibly interesting and the movie won the 1999 Academy Award for Best Documentary, I don t feel that it was as well made as it could have been. The documentary was somewhat boring, very slow moving (a documentary can move at a swift pace even for an event covering a short period of time), and was not very engaging. It is a movie that I wanted to like, but I think it was only average. It lingered too long at times and did not move on in telling the story fast enough.