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One Day In September [DVD]
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Kevin MacDonald directs this Oscar-winning documentary, examining the events of the 1972 Munich Olympics when the extreme Palestinian group Black September held eleven Israeli athletes hostage. Archive material and music mingles with interview footage of those involved at the time, including the only surviving member of the Black September group.
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No padding, no dodgy dialogue, no script boobs; just an incredible story packed into a relatively short period of screen-time. It feels as though every image, every frame has been chosen specifically to drive the story.
Basically, this film sucks you in, grabs you by the neck and delivers such a painful sucker-punch that it leaves you shaking, quite literally.
Buy it, watch it and wonder how the hell someone let the mess in 1972 ever happen.
This video is rated 12 and over. Would I be happy for a 12-year-old to see close-up photographs of the dead hostages ? Depends on the 12-year-old, I think.
The apparent lack of remorse in the only surviving terrorist remains the most chilling aspect of this film, whilst the daughter placing sunflowers on the grave of the father she cannot remember remains the most poignant.
The documentary also managed to illustrate very convincingly the abject failure of the German / Bavarian police forces at the time to deal with the crisis at hand. This was partly due to the fact that (for historical reasons I suppose) the German constitution did not really Germany's armed forces to deal with such internal crises. This, together with the fact that such an incident was unprecedented at the time, and therefore, there were no police forces available that were trained to deal with this kind of incident, may help to explain the German failure, although the sheer scale of this failure is nonetheless breathtaking even when considering these "mitigating circumstances".
However, as often with documentaries, the devil is in the details. So is at one point suggested that Israel offered its own trained specialist security forces to deal with the crisis, but as the hostage-takers were pressing for time by negotiating relatively quickly for a plane to leave the country, the question remains whether these Israeli forces could have been brought in on time anyway.
And while the German security forces surely did bungle up this one big time, the Mossad agents who subsequently avenged the athletes' and coaches' death did a bit of bungling up themselves, e.g. by killing an innocent Morrokan waiter in Norway in front of his pregnant Norwegian wife, because they mistook him for one of the masterminds of the attack (although he was 20 cm shorter and happened to speak fluent Norwegian).
The very graphic footage of the bloodied bodies of the hostages towards the end of the documentary was almost a bit too much, and gave my partner nightmares after watching the film (although admittedly she is quite a sensitive person).
Near the end there was just a hint of suggestion that the German authorities may have had a hand in a subsequent hi-jacking of a German plane by Palestinians that was carried out to free the 3 Palestinian hostage-takers, as explained by Michael Douglas's voice from the off, followed by interview replies by some German politicians to some question which may or may not be identical with the said comment by Michael Douglas. This appeared to be quite speculative ("why were there only 12 passengers on board of the plane"?) and was not backed up by any real evidence.
All in all, I found the documentary a little bit one-sided. Although it did a good job at explaining the tragic events at the Munich Olympiad, it did not provide much of a historical context for these events apart from a very short bit at the beginning of the film the first time part of the interview with the one remaining Palestinian hi-jacker is shown.
Although One Day in September is a rather good documentary, for the above reasons I do not fully share the enthusiasm of the majority of my fellow reviewers, and I can give only four stars.
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