One Day In September

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Movie Review by Louise Charman

Starring: Michael Douglas

Director: Kevin Macdonald

With the 2000 Olympics only months away, ONE DAY IN SEPTEMBER is a timely reminder that sporting events on an international scale can too often be tainted by political agendas. Deserved winner of this year?s Oscar for best documentary feature, this is a riveting and shocking account of the Palestinian terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Director Kevin Macdonald interweaves dramatic original footage and interviews with key players (including the first and only interview with the last surviving Palestinian terrorist) to take us through the tragic events of September 5th 1972. Narration by Michael Douglas and effective use of music from the time helps create the sense that this is as much a big screen thriller as it is a documentary, with the added pathos that real lives hang in the balance. The air of secrecy surrounding the attack and its aftermath (did the German authorities attempt to brush the whole affair under the carpet?) mean that audiences today are ignorant of the full, devastating story. Revelation after revelation follow in a jaw-dropping sequence of tactical errors and gross ineptitude on the part of the German authorities.

Every perspective is covered – the families of the victims tell of their last glimpses of loved ones, plus journalists, newsreaders, and police and politicians from both Germany and Israel give their recollections of the time. The filmmakers poignantly contrast testimony from the widow of Andre Spitzer, the Israeli fencing coach, with that of Jamal Al Gashey, the surviving terrorist who still lives in hiding, afraid for his life. Anke Spitzer relates how her husband, despite the fact that Israel and Lebanon were at war, went to chat to the Lebanese athletes. ?That?s what the Olympics are all about? he said. In contrast the terrorists were gathering their weapons: ?I felt very proud that for the first time I was able to confront the Israelis? commented Al Gashey on his imminent role in the attack.

But what is most appalling about the events is not so much the terrorists themselves as the appalling series of miscalculations made by the German authorities in an attempt to rescue the hostages. That the final death toll could have been avoided makes it all the more tragic.

Let us hope that come this September, the only conflicts will be sporting ones.

6 out of 6 stars