Olympic Kidnapping: One Day In September
The Olympic games have become famous (and sometimes infamous) for much more than just the sports. The opening and closing ceremonies have become highly anticipated events in their own right (especially after the last installment in Beijing), boycotts and politics continue to garner much attention, and then there’s the security. Protection and terrorism in particular have been a concern at the Olympics long before 9/11.
There was of course the tragic bombing of the 1996 Atlanta games by an anti-abortion fanatic, and the games themselves have been cancelled several times by World Wars 1 and 2. But it is the Israeli hostage crisis of the 1972 Munich summer games that has been most remembered. For many years after the tragedy, much information was not known about the instigators, the victims, and ultimately, the culpability of Olympic organizers and the German police and security forces. The Oscar-winning documentary One Day in September is a fantastic examination into one of the worst events in sports history.
The Black September group, a Palestenian terrorist organization, kidnapped nearly a dozen members of the Israeli atheletic team. Their demands are the release of over two hundred prisoners. Events unfolded live on international television, which complicated rescue operations and even aided the kidnappers in certain situations.
Narration is provided by Michael Douglass, but for the most part the film is told in a real-time fashion. What makes it unique is director Kevin McDonald’s discovery of the only surviving member of the Black September group, whose identity is not revealed. Supposedly, the filmmakers found him somewhere in Africa, and that’s pretty remarkable since even the Mossad couldn’t find him. Never before revelations are made about the lax security of the games, and truly mind-boggling failures during the rescue and negotiation stages.
For those of you who already know how the story ends, the film can be unbearable at times by knowing what’s going to happen and how preventable it all was. But the film truly shocks with new information about the fate of the survivors and a subsequent hijacking by Black September of a Lufthansa airliner.
The film is especially pertinent with the announcement that the 2016 Olympic games will be held in Rio de Janiero despite deep security concerns. The summer games, which by far beats their winter counterpart in terms of viewers, remains an optimal target for terrorists and fanatics. One Day in September convincingly builds a case that such tragedy could occur again.
The documentary itself is controversial for winning the 2000 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. The competition states that only voters who see all five films are allowed to vote, and producer Arthur Cohn invited only members who he thought was likely to vote for this film. Thus, anyone who was not invited by Cohn did not have their vote counted, and the film basically won by default.
Nonetheless, it is a terrific documentary that is still relevant as we head into the 30th Olympic Games. One Day in September is a fast-paced, well-researched, and deeply suspenseful documentary.
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