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Film / One Day in September

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One Day in September is a 1999 documentary feature directed by Kevin Macdonald.

It is about the infamous 1972 Munich massacre at the Olympic Games. A Palestinian terrorist group that called itself "Black September" snuck into the athete's village and seized 11 members of the Israeli Olympic delegation as hostages. The terrorists demanded the release of 234 terrorists being held prisoner by the Israelis and the West Germans, but the Israelis refused to negotiate. During the prolonged crisis, two Israelis are killed. Finally, an attempt by the terrorists to take a plane to Egypt along with their hostages is interrupted by a rescue attempt at the airport. Unfortunately, the West German police horribly botch the rescue attempt and the remaining nine hostages are killed, along with five of the eight terrorists.


For a fictional rendition of these events and the subsequent Israeli attempts at vengeance, see the Steven Spielberg film Munich.


  • Documentary: Of the worst moment in Olympic history, the 1972 Munich massacre.
  • Germanic Efficiency: Discussed Trope, and averted. One of the reporters who covered the crisis says everyone believed in "ruthless Germanic efficiency" and just assumed that the West Germans had some sort of trained special forces squad. They didn't; the German personnel on the scene were regular cops who had no training at all in commando operations.
  • Good-Times Montage: A single montage covers the main highlights of the Olympics before the terrorist attack—Mark Spitz's seven swimming gold medals, Olga Korbut's balance beam gold medal, and the highly controversial USA-USSR basketball gold medal game.
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  • Gorn: Some ghastly photos of the dead bodies scattered around the airport. Some are partially obscured by pixellation, but others aren't at all.
  • The Ken Burns Effect: Used several times with still photos. There is a zoom out from a photo of Andre Spitzer with his newborn baby. There is a chilling slow zoom across the eyes of terrorist Jamal Al-Gashey as he describes the planning of the attack. The camera zooms in to the last photo of Andre Spitzer alive, as he is being clubbed by a rifle butt on the balcony.
  • Narrator: Michael Douglas's narration is used sparingly, with most of the film being told with stock footage and interviews.
  • Pixellation:
    • Used to slightly obscure the face of terrorist Jamal Al-Gashey.
    • Used to partially, but only partially, obscure the bloody corpses of victims and terrorists.
  • P.O.V. Cam: One athlete describes how he happened to be first in line as the Israelis were being led out after the initial attack and thus was able to make a run for it, which resulted in him ultimately being the only one of the Israelis to survive. This is illustrated with a POV shot down the hallways of apartment complex 31, which was (and is) unchanged from 1972.
  • Split Screen: A series of split screen shots illustrates the athletes from all over the world in the Olympic Village.
  • Stock Footage: Most of the movie besides the Talking Heads sequences, starting with a tourist promotional newsreel for the city of Munich, then moving on to lots and lots of sports and news footage.
  • Talking Heads: Interviewees include Ankie Spitzer, widow of murdered fencing coach Andre Spitzer, and Jamal Al-Gashey, one of the three surviving terrorists. Al-Gashey is shown in shadow with his face blurred.
  • Tick Tock Terror: Used to illustrate the moments ticking down to multiple deadlines set by the terrorists.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: A brief one noting that Ulrich Wegener founded GSG 9, the anti-terrorism squad the Germans so conspicuously lacked in 1972; that Israeli special forces killed two of the three surviving terroristsnote ; and that Jamal Al-Gashey was living in hiding in Africa with a wife and two daughters.