The current crisis in the Middle East, with its painful controversy regarding the sovereignty over Temple Mount, makes the timing for the documentary One Day in September (Best Documentary Oscar: 1999) perfect. The film presents the historical events of the 1972 Munich Olympics, when Palestinian terrorists took Israeli athletes hostage and interrupted the Games. The filmmakers use actual footage taken at the time, interviews with German officials and children of the victims, clips from television news reports, and interviews with the only surviving terrorist who participated in the attack, Jamal Al Gashey.
The film starts off on a personal note: Ankie Spitzer, a widow of one of the Israeli athletes kept as a hostage, recalls their happy marriage and anticipation of coming to the Olympic games. Giving the tragedy a human face underlines the message of the film: At the core of every political game, human life and death are nothing more than a by-product of political cruelty. Objectively, it gives a succinct summary of why the 1972 Olympics, besides being as political as Olympic Games always are, were so particularly important to both Germans and Israelis. Subjectively, and understandably so, the film is pro-Israeli: If members of Israeli team are presented as exemplary citizens -- young, ambitions, with families and babies -- Palestinians are shown receiving training in violence, hiding as Zionist refugees in Lebanon and Libya, carrying out their terrorist acts with anonymous brutality (as they don't even know the target of their attack until very late). Thus, in addition and perhaps without realizing it, the film exemplifies why cinema is such a powerful and dangerous medium; One Day in September is an adroitly constructed yet highly manipulative film.
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