An excellent documentary that demonstrates in crystal-clear fashion the danger that fundamentalist Muslims pose to the civilized world, and how the Palestinians were every bit as cold-blooded, fanatical, and murderous as kidnappers in 1972 as they are today as homicide-bombers. During the 1972 Munich Olympics, eight terrorists waltzed into the Olympic compound right under the nose of German authorities and held 11 Israeli athletes hostage, demanding that Israel release 200 terrorists held as prisoners. Long story short, one hostage was shot in front of the others, one pitched out a window, and the rest were slaughtered at a German airport, in the terrorists' botched attempt to flee the country with the athletes still captive.
The film is as visually stimulating as it is informative. The standoff and negotiations between the Palestinians and Germans were captured in their entirety on film, as was the ensuing journey to the airport; interspersed with the live footage were current news reports, including portions of the ABC sports broadcast and commentary about the scene at hand. Anything not captured live on film was photographed, and the film's music was artfully chosen to convey the events' drama and anguish. Amazingly, the sole surviving Palestinian terrorist was interviewed incognito for the film, who said about the initial hostage capture, "I felt very proud that for the first time I was able to confront the Israelis." The shots of the slain athletes (both at the compound and the airport) are a brutal reminder of what the Palestinian idea of "confronting" innocents entails.
One Day in September also shows that the Germans hadn't traveled very far from Nazism by 1972, except that their military ineptitude had grown in leaps and bounds. Not only did the German police and Olympic authorities handle the crisis as effectively as a cross between Gilligan, Mr. Magoo, and Inspector Clousseau, but they were more concerned with continuing the games than they were with saving the lives of the hostages. Furthermore, they held the Mossad at bay and prevented it from getting the job done; the Israeli squad, like so many others, was unfortunately initially fooled by what one called "The Myth of Utter German Ruthless Efficiency."
German cluelessness and cowardice abounded: the police tried to raid the compound from the roof, only to learn just in time that the terrorists could watch their every move on live TV coverage; agents got cold feet and bailed at the last second before descending on the terrorists; at the airport, they didn't even use real snipers, and had their men positioned in one another's lines of fire; one of the Germans accidentally shot a hostage. In the interviews given by the Germans for the documentary (especially that of General Wegener), the tone can best be described as a shrug of the shoulders and a, "Hey, what can you do?" The greatest insult of is that the Germans allowed the three surviving terrorists to escape during their transport, as cowardly means of insurance against future acts of terrorism. The terrorists received a hero's welcome in Libya.
An amazingly sad story, captured as vividly as can be- One Day in September is the essence of what documentaries of historical events should be. The only happy ending is that the Mossad later killed two out of the three terrorists- it's just too bad the remaining one couldn't have been shot in the face as soon as his interview for the project finished.