Documentary by Steven Spielberg revolving around the Olympic Games


One Day in September is a documentary by Steven Spielberg revolving around the Olympic Games that took place in the year 1972.  Athletes around the world had come together in Munich, Germany for the Games only for the spirit of peaceful competition and brotherhood to be shattered when 8 Palestinian terrorists took a number of Israeli team hostage and leaving 11 athletes dead (Reeve    34).  Despite being made into a documentary, this particular event took place in real life during the Olympic Games.  The documentary footage was incorporated as a way of explaining the occurrence of that particular day as well as documenting the aftermath while revealing the full extent of Israel’s covert revenge operation which was termed as ‘Wrath of God’ (Reeve    37).

Spielberg also incorporated interviews with the only surviving terrorist who took part in the attack by the name Jamal Al Gashey, a 19 year old boy, to get an idea of what was going on in their minds before, during and after the attacks.  Actual footage was used that was taken at the time in addition to clips from television news reports (Reeve    40).

Question Two

The man leading the group in trying to stop the terrorists in the Black September attacks as it came to be known is called Avner and the character is played by Eric Bana.  Avner is a young and idealistic Mossad agent who is given an assignment of manning a 4-man unit charged with the responsibility of wiping out the Olympic terrorists (Reeve    43).  Avner however begins to buckle under the pressure related to this particular task as he begins to wonder if he can morally justify his country’s acts of revenge (Reeve    46).  Avner’s group tracks down and shoots their first target who was apparently one of the Black September planners and this is done by following him from a speech he had given to a small audience (Reeve    51).  The team proceeds to kill the second and on proceeding to their third, Avner is almost killed in an explosion set by the target.  In the end, the team manages to kill all the Olympic attackers.  However, three of the team members are killed under unexplainable circumstances and this force Avner and Steve, the remaining team members to relocate to Spain (Reeve    54).

Avner has reflections, daydreams and nightmares about the massacre which start after flying to Israel and later to New York to be reunited with his family.  He becomes psychologically tormented and is paranoid about his family’s safety while experiencing flashbacks of the Munich Massacre.  He also questions the morality of his killings as well as the value of his mission (Reeve    59).  Avner, despite the fact that he was not in Munich or at the Olympics during the massacre experience the flashbacks and is aware of the brutal scenes because of his contact with the terrorists while hunting them down with his team as well as the information gathered in the course of their hunting down the targets.

Question Three

The final scene occurs along the Brooklyn docks featuring the NYC skyline in the background where Avner and Aphrem have a very important conversation. Aphrem is Avner’s handler and he has just arrived in New York to come and convince Avner to rejoin Mossad as he quit before his mission.  At this point, Avner also tends to question the foundation and effectiveness of the mission in which Aphrem confesses that no evidence was in existence linking all targets to Munich (Reeve    62).    The camera scenes at this particular point pass across the skyline and stop with the Twin Towers in the centre of the film (Reeve    66).    Spielberg’s message to the audience in this final scene is for people to remember how vulnerable they may be to terrorist attacks and keep in mind that the federal government is doing everything in their power to stop such attacks in addition to preventing further lose of life in future.  Avner’s questions and thoughts especially during the final scene triggers the question of whether or not it is ethical and moral for individuals charged with national security assignments or those in authority to carry out certain tasks without asking reasons as to why they have been assigned the tasks (Reeve    70).  One is also left to wonder if it is worth serving one’s nation, doing his/her duty as a way of ensuring that their people live freely in their own land.



Reeve, Simon. One day in September: the full story of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre and the Israeli revenge operation “Wrath of God”. New York: Arcade Publishing. 2000. Print.