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Culture

Spielberg Begins Munich Olympics Film

Director Steven Spielberg, who tackled the Holocaust in "Schindler's List," has begun work on a film exploring the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the 1972 Munich Olympics, Universal Studios announced.

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Black September militants seized Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972

The as-yet-untitled film is Spielberg's most politically charged project to date. Set in the aftermath of the killing of 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympics in Munich, the film tells the story of the Israeli agents assigned to track down and assassinate the members of the Black September faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization believed to be behind the attack.

The attack at Munich by Black September and the Israeli response to it was a defining moment in the modern history of the Middle East," a statement from Universal Studios quoting Spielberg said.

"It's easy to look back at historic events with the benefit of hindsight. What's not so easy is to try to see things as they must have looked to people at the time," the statement read.

Black day

On Sept. 5, 1972, members of Black September seized Israeli athletes inside the Munich Olympic village and demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel in return for the release of the hostages.

München Olympiade 1972 Hubschauber

The helicopter in foreground was burned-out as a result of a hand grenade explosion set off by one of the Palestinian kidnappers who apparently committing suicide to avoid capture

German authorities managed to talk the terrorists out of the Olympic Village, but the rescue attempt ended in disaster during a shoot-out at a small airport. In addition to the 11 Israeli hostages, one German policeman and five of eight terrorists died.

Within days of the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir secretly authorized a Mossad hit squad to kill Black September operatives wherever they could be found.

Responses to terror

Though Spielberg has released little information about his film, people who have read the script by playwright Tony Kushner said it deals with question of how a civilized nation responds to terrorism and the personal journeys of the Israeli assassins struggling to come to terms with the task they were given.

In bringing such sensitive material to the screen, Spielberg has reportedly sought advice from a variety of sources, including his rabbi and former American diplomat Dennis Ross, who served in Bill Clinton's presidential administration.

Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg

Spielberg earned the respect of the American Jewish community and the state of Israel for his treatment of the Holocaust in "Schindler's List" and for his philanthropic work with the Shoah Foundation, dedicated to preserving testimonies of concentration camp survivors. But he risks jeopardizing that respect by addressing the controversial Israeli tactic of targeted killings.

The film was meant to have started production last year, but was delayed when the original script by the writer Eric Roth was rewritten by Kushner. Spielberg has revealed that the film will star Eric Bana as the lead Israeli assassin along with Daniel Craig and Geoffrey Rush among others.

Universal Studios has already set an Oscar-season release date of Dec. 23.

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