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One Day in September

Up to this point in time, the only thing most people knew about One Day in September is that it stole away the Oscar for Best Documentary away from the beloved The Buena Vista Social Club at the 2000 Academy Awards. Now, nearly a year later, people can finally see what the fuss is about, and the film is worth the wait. One Day in September chronicles September 5, 1972, when Palestinian terrorists held members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage. This only happened twenty-eight years ago, and the whole world watched as events played live out on their televisions. What makes Kevin MacDonald's (Donald Cammell: The Ultimate Performance, Howard Hawks: American Artist) film remarkable is that even in the age of television, he manages to tell an extremely balanced story while unearthing new information about the hostage situation.

For anybody unfamiliar with the story, Germany wanted the 1972 Munich Olympic Games to go smoothly, mostly to erase the horrible legacy of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which Hitler used primarily as a tool for propaganda. On September 5, members of the Palestinian extremist group Black September broke into the Israeli rooms at the Olympic Village and demanded the release of 200 prisoners in exchange for the Israelis. The standoff lasted about twenty-one hours, before tragically ending. During the standoff, German officials balked at stopping the games and the hostage takers refused to budge although it was well known that Israel would not bargain. MacDonald even manages to add in some shocking information at the end of the movie regarding the resoluation of the crisis.

As with most good documentaries, MacDonald unearthed excellent footage (including commentary by a much younger Peter Jennings). His interviews are what set One Day in September ahead of the pack. He managed to find and interview Jamal al Gashey (the person in front of the microphone in the above left picture), one of the terrorists. He is the only surviving terrorist, and is still hiding from Israel, and he has never spoken about his actions before. Gashey gives an insider's perspective on the hostage situation, letting people examine the motivations behind his actions as well as providing some information never before revealed. Together with interviews by one of the athlete's wife, German police officials, and narration by Michael Douglas (Wonder Boys, Traffic), MacDonald crafts a taut narrative. The ticking digital clock is a little much at times, but this is a small complaint about an otherwise good movie.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 32 minutes, Rated R for some graphic violent images.

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