An intense, deeply moving Oscar-winning documentary directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Mauritanian, Marley), One Day in September explores the tragedy of the 1972 Munich Olympics and the murder of 11 members of the Israeli team by the Palestinian Black September militant group.
Promoted as Die Heiteren Spiele (The Cheerful Games), Munich was the first Olympics to be held in Germany since the propaganda exercise that was Hitler’s 1936 Berlin games. It was also four years after Mexico and the excessive military presence. Determined to be laid back and relaxed, the naivety of security was cruelly exposed by eight well-organised Palestinian militants who held the athletes hostage in the Olympic Village. Two were murdered early in proceedings but the remaining nine were killed at the airport as the group looked to make their escape.
One Day in September exposes a litany of shocking errors and level of unpreparedness by the German authorities. Interviews with members of the then security forces highlight mistakes made, some so basic they beggar belief (the offer of help of a highly-trained Israeli anti-terrorist team was rejected). But the documentary also highlights events post-Olympics (which continued in spite of the deaths) where German culpability is exposed.
With personal stories of the 11 victims woven into the narrative (interviews with now adult children, wives) as well as the surviving terrorist Jamal Al Gashey, One Day In September is powerful yet distressing where 11 lives were publicly lost as a result of ineptitude. And, mirroring Berlin, the deaths of Jews were ignored for the greater importance of the Olympic Games.
Winner of the 2000 Oscar for best documentary.