Sunday, 19 November 2006

One Day in September (1999)

This review was originally posted on Ian's Personal Blog on 15th June 2006.

One Day in SeptemberWhile the rest of the UK was watching the latest lacklustre performance of our World Cup team, I was watching the Olympics, albeit via an oscar-winning documentary on the 1972 variant thereof.

The documentary is officially out on DVD this week for around £14 online, but available for a bargain £4.89 from HMV - at least in Kingston. It's a shame I hadn't had a chance to watch this before I watched Spielberg's Munich last weekend (and reviewed here on my blog earlier today) as it serves as a great lead-in to that film.

The documentary in question is called One Day in September, was originally released in 1999, and won its Academy Award in the 'Best Feature Documentary' category in 2000. Frankly, it's not hard to see why it won.

While Spielberg's movie focuses on the events after the Munich hostage crisis, the documentary focuses on the event itself, interspersed with overly jolly German 'Wilkommen' marketing films for the Olympics event, interviews with partners and families of the deceased and, amazingly, a crucial interview with the only one of the terrorists known to be still alive and in hiding, giving his side of the story.

I remember the 1972 event very vividly, if only for the iconic photo of one of the balaclava-clad terrorists on a balcony that featured on so many newspaper covers and TV reports of the time. What I had forgotten was exactly how it all ended, and, indeed that this was the event that woke the world up to the fact that there were a group of people called Palistinians who were being treated atrociously and wanted the world to finally take notice.

The documentary unravels the whole story, with the help of some inspired music, building slowly to the climax where one can only sit open-mouthed at the incompetence of the officials, the insensitivity of the Olympic committee, and the sheer scandal of the subsequent 'staged' hostage taking (twelve passengers on a large jumbo plane) that meant Germany could quickly 'negotiate' a swap of the terrorists that survived the slaughter so that they weren't its problem any more.

You can see the root of the whole terrorist problem, with continued Western indifference, apathy and sheer stupidy backed up with endlessly repeated incompetence as a particular scenario unfolds. In the case of Munich the viewer is continually put in the position of thinking the various authorities involved couldn't possibly make one more cock-up, just before they do, again and again and again! And one fears that nothing at all has changed!

The DVD itself is very bare-bones, with just a trailer added to the basic film. The picture quality is pretty poor since it centres mainly on old footage of the time and TV reports that haven't been cleaned up at all. But none of that matters when the story the documentary has to tell is this gripping. Well worth a viewing, especially if you can pick it up for the bargain price I did.

One Day in September screencap

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