One Day in September
SCORE: 3 Stars
One Day in September tells a biased (or perhaps incomplete) story. The events that led up to the Palestinian terrorist actions at the 1972 Munich Olympics are largely left unexplained. If any of this is unfamiliar to you (much of it was to me) I'll briefly describe the situation. In 1972, eight Palestinian terrorists entered the Olympic village and took all eleven members of the Israeli team hostage. One of the Jews escaped and two more were killed resisting the Palestinians. The terrorists demanded the release of 200 political prisoners, or they would start killing the Israelis.
Director Kevin Macdonald makes an interesting (and I believe philosophically Western) decision on when to begin the story. Even more than fiction, the non-fiction storyteller must be careful he doesn't leave out crucial background information. I was irritated that I was uninformed on the reasons for the Palestinian's attack on the Israelis. Sure, we all know the history between these countries, but there must have been something specific that ignited the suicide mission. Instead, director Macdonald chooses to focus on the victims and leave politics out of the picture. At one point, narrator Michael Douglas makes the statement that the terrorists entered the village with the aid of members of the East German team. No further mention is made of this accusation, and no mention of indictments of individuals from the East German team are revealed.
So, historians and fact-mongers will surely be disappointed by One Day in September. Personally, the film works for me because everything I've ever been taught abhors the notion of terrorism. I'm not the first to call it cowardly. Terrorists aren't heroes; they are jingoistic puppets suffering from "little man" syndrome.
The documentary clearly shows the nation of Israel's position regarding terrorism: zero tolerance, no deals. Every time a Palestinian stuck his head out of the Olympic compound, I half expected a sniper to gun him down. If your policy is zero tolerance, the logical procedure is to take a specially trained unit into the Olympic village and annihilate the enemy regardless of civilian casualties.
Then we see the tragic results of a nation that is unwilling to back up its zero tolerance policy. All the Israeli athletes are killed anyway. Amazingly, three of the eight Palestinians escape through what can only be described as a major blunder by the German government. It's really hard to believe the German government was that stupid. The German's actions throughout the tragedy force the viewer to question either their integrity or their competence.
I have to admit I admired the Israeli special forces for hunting down and killing two of the three terrorists. Too bad they weren't so decisive earlier. One of the Palestinians is still alive, and, amazingly, is interviewed extensively throughout the film. He maintains that his is proud of what he did in 1972. I'm not surprised. The dead terrorists received a heroes welcome where tens of thousands of Palestinians lined the streets cheering and fighting for a chance to touch the coffins.
One Day in September won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2000. I doubt it deserves it, but since documentaries rarely show outside of New York and L.A., I'm really not in a position to argue.
of 10) 2--for several photos of the dead athletes bodies.