One Day In September

One Day In September


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The story could have been invented in Hollywood and it is to Kevin MacDonald's credit that he does not forget this. Edited like a thriller, with a rock soundtrack, and enough slow motion to satisfy a pop video, this documentary has, of all things, sex appeal. It also has Michael Douglas as the narrator. Clever move. There is very little to narrate, but having him there, with his basic instinct, adds credibility, LA-wise.

What happened during the 1972 Olympic Games at Munich has almost been forgotten and yet, in atrocity terms, gained worst nightmare status, so bad, so unthinkable that memory incinerated the details for fear of allowing chaos to burst through the mind's safety barrier.

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A select group of highly motivated and specially trained Palestinian terrorists took the entire Israeli athletic team hostage in their apartments at the Olympic village. They killed two during the raid, the rest later. It was a moment of debacle for the German authorities, who, up until then, had a reputation of ruthless efficiency.

Documentary making is a matter of choice - what to put in, what to leave out. Usually the director has an agenda, disguised as objectivity. While exposing fatal flaws in police handling of the incident, MacDonald is less interested in beating them over the head with hard facts than in remembering the human story and making a film that retains constant tension.

He succeeds beautifully and paces himself well. Having an exclusive interview with the sole surviving member of the kidnap squad is a coup. He does not abuse this privilege. Like brother Andrew, who produced Trainspotting and The Beach, he is a natural filmmaker. In beating Wim Wenders' Buena Vista Social Club for for the 1999 Oscar, these qualities have been recognised where it matters - off Sunset Boulevard.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Documentary about the terror attack during the 1972 Munich Olympics.
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Director: Kevin MacDonald

Year: 1999

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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