NEW YORK - Steven Spielberg's work usually needs no endorsement.
Though he's had some misses--There's The Terminal, and it's almost a cliche to slam 1941--the director-producer also thrilled, scared, riveted and moved us with his hits. His oeuvre ranges from entertaining blockbusters like Jaws and E.T. to the grueling inhumanity of Schindler's List--and then there's D-Day epic Saving Private Ryan, somewhere in-between.
There's a reason why the Hollywood power player is ranked No. 83 on the Forbes 400 Richest Americans list.
But subjects like shark attacks and Nazis, though awful, are pretty black-and-white. Now he's crafted a new film, Munich, about the 1972 Olympic slaughter of 11 Israeli athletes and the ramifications--which, technically, continue to this day.
Pretty controversial stuff, especially as the Tinseltown maestro's movie deals with then-Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir's reaction: creating a special unit to hunt down and "eliminate" the Palestinian terrorists involved in the mass-murder. And viewers tend to sympathize with prey, whatever the circumstances--especially as the 30 years since have seen Israel, once the victim of endless aggression by its neighbors, also play the aggressor.
Add in the fact that the film is reportedly based largely on Vengeance, George Jonas' 1984 book--one that was widely discredited by both Israelis and Palestinians. And supposedly Spielberg hadn't contacted the families of the slain athletes before production, nor did he respond to an Associated Press request for comment Thursday, according to the AP itself.
So naturally, some people are looking askance in advance. But if Spielberg's new effort requires endorsement, he's got it--from the widows of two of the 11 slain Israeli athletes.
Spielberg's co-producer, Kathleen Kennedy, and the movie's screenwriter, Tony Kushner arrived in Israel earlier this month to hold a private screening for the two widows. That was followed by an emotional discussion that lasted several hours, the women said.
The AP quoted Ilana Romano, widow of weightlifter Yosef Romano, as saying, "The movie respects the athletes." She and Ankie Spitzer, who was married to the fencing coach Andre Spitzer, are the only Israelis to see the movie in their homeland before its official release late next month. The film opens in the U.S. Friday.
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