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Greetings again from the darkness. "I'm a revolutionary. I'm not a criminal." So states Ishmael Muslim Ali (formerly Ishmael LaBeet), a man convicted of 8 murders at a posh country club in 1972 St. Croix. Director Jamie Kastner secures a fascinating on camera extended interview with the man who considers himself a victim – a political prisoner.
Ali is a well-spoken and somewhat charismatic man, while at the same time not exactly believable or likable. Director Kastner retraces the original Fountain Valley Murders, and the subsequent questionable interrogations that led to Ali and four others confessing to the horrific crimes. Confessions allegedly garnered through torture (cattle prods and ropes/trees) and a sham trial are the focus of the film predictably, St Croix law enforcement denies such activities, while others provide quite vivid details of such.
Adding intrigue to the saga is the 1984 New Year's Eve hijacking of an American Airlines flight by Ali. He re-directed the flight to Cuba where he continues to live today. Interviews with the pilot, flight attendants and even passengers accompany the reenactments of the hijacking, and Ali later explains how he smuggled the gun aboard.
Kastner leaves little doubt that he believes Ali's story, but in a show of balance, we do learn that Ali/LaBeet was dishonorably discharged from the military, and later joined the Black Panthers. He was described as the "most polite hijacker" and certainly has some outspoken critics, but the numerous interviews – especially that of Ali – will test your people-reading skills. Criminal or victim? You decide.
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