one day in september(1999)
director: kevin macdonald
narrator: michael douglas

. Kevin Macdonald’s Oscar-winning documentary on the PLO hostage crisis at the 1972 Munich Olympics is, if nothing else, well-timed for release, falling as it does after the joyless Sydney games this summer and during the gruesome flare-up of hostilities in Israel.

The beginning of the 1972 Olympic Games were, for those too young to remember, probably the last moment of a “pure”, athletic utopia. From the moment eight Palestinian terrorists snuck into the Olympic village and took eleven Israeli athletes hostage, that dream was dead. Munich was the Altamont of amateur athletics.

Macdonald does a good job of setting the scene, describing the groovy atmosphere of the Olympic village, and the lax security measure taken by German officials who were eager to erase memories of Hitler’s propaganda-tainted 1936 Berlin games. In any case, the director manages the unusual feat of making the seventies seem like an era of unabashed innocence.

The music, in particular, is well-chosen, despite the questionable taste behind scoring a mournful montage of the victims to Deep Purple's wailing "A Child in Time". Still, questionable taste defined the whole of the decade.

The tense, minute-by-minute retelling of the story makes palpable the sensation people like myself had, twenty-eight years ago, of the crisis lasting much longer than a single day. The tragic collision of the terrorists’ fanaticism and the blunders of the German authorities are made painfully clear.