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The Skyjacker's Tale (2016)

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After five citizens of the Virgin Islands are convicted in the 1970s of a massacre at one of the island's fancy country clubs, their ostensible leader stages a skyjacking and escapes to Cuba.

Director:

Jamie Kastner

Writer:

Jamie Kastner
2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Ishmael Muslim Ali Ishmael Muslim Ali ... Himself
Peter Bent Peter Bent ... Ballantine
Daniela Biz Daniela Biz ... Ruth Griffen
Tainya-Sue Brown ... Tina Tuitt
Isabella Carr ... Melanie Chernoff
Bradley Gordon Bradley Gordon ... Ishmael Muslim Ali
Martin Huss ... Ohanio Harris
Robert Ifedi ... Charlo
Margaret Ratner Kunstler Margaret Ratner Kunstler ... Herself
Paul Norie Paul Norie ... Legrand Lee
Maarika Pinkney Maarika Pinkney ... Regina
Michael Ratner Michael Ratner ... Himself
Emily Schooley ... Airline Passenger
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Storyline

After five citizens of the Virgin Islands are convicted in the 1970s of a massacre at one of the island's fancy country clubs, their ostensible leader stages a skyjacking and escapes to Cuba.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

reenactment | See All (1) »

Taglines:

Truth is in the air...

Genres:

Documentary

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Details

Country:

Canada

Language:

English

Release Date:

30 June 2017 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Die Geschichte des Flugzeugentführers Ali LaBeet See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,097, 2 July 2017

Gross USA:

$6,253

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$6,253
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Cave 7 Productions See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color
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User Reviews

 
Totally absorbing and entertaining stylized documentary
2 October 2016 | by bill-371-929209See all my reviews

PROGRESSIVE CINEMA - One of the most colorful and stylized political tales at the Toronto Film Festival this year is a documentary entitled The Skyjackers Tale. This totally absorbing and entertaining film, full of creative reenactments, tells the story about the murder of 8 people at the Fountain Valley Golf Club in St Croix, Virgin Islands in 1972. Pressured to find the murderers, the state apparatus rounds up several 'guilty' suspects, puts them through torture, a sham trial with forced confessions, even though they were represented by the famed progressive attorney William Kunstler, and sends them off to 8 life sentences. One of these unfortunate souls is Ishmael Labeet, the main subject of the film, who claims he never even went to the country club because it wasn't his kind of people – meaning white.

His life prior to the conviction involved a dishonorable discharge from the military for him "refusing to kill people that looked like me and never did anything against me." He went on to New York and joined the Black Panthers where he developed his revolutionary credentials. After returning to his home in St. Croix he hung with revolutionary groups that committed petty crimes – robbing to fund their work, and was eventually arrested for the murders.

After serving 14 years in American prisons, and they are described in great clarity in the film, he applies for habeas corpus. He goes back to St Croix, loses the case and is headed back handcuffed between two special agents to the US to finish his 8 life sentences when he chooses a much better option – he skyjacks the plane to Havana! Upon landing he is arrested and willingly serves 7 more years in a prison that "looks like a vacation compared to the ones in the US!" The movie actually starts at this point with him in Cuba, and the previous activities are shown in clever and colorful flashbacks. The skyjacking is artfully re-created using testimony from interviews with passengers who were on the plane back then, along with many others who are relevant to the trial, his life in St. Croix, the military, the Black Panthers, and most everywhere along his lifespan. He apologized to passengers who at first were frightened, offers them all 'drinks on the house' and was eventually described as "the most polite hijacker." The film explains how he got the gun on the plane, and how the whole hijacking took place, because Labeet is walking free in the streets of Cuba (location not revealed) and is interviewed at several locations, with many friends and family who know his remarkable story. He claims to be a revolutionary, not a criminal, and much better off than the other guys who are still in prison for the rest of their lives.

The cleverly crafted tale is directed by Canadian auteur, Jamie Kastner (Kike Like Me, Secret Disco Revolution) who traveled down to Cuba after conversations with his auto mechanic. "I went down to meet him after I looked him up online. Murderer! Hijacker! Revolutionary! I was curious how these work together. I thought I was going to meet a mass murderer. I met him and he claims his innocence and begins to tell me this amazing story. I am shocked and intrigued by each new revelation he made. He's a compelling lead character, a star in Cuba, funny, bright, sexy, a charismatic guy, and you believe him." Kastner continues, "But as a journalist I had to check the facts. So to have the cops and investigators in St Croix confirming the details that he was indeed involved with revolutionary gangs," added credibility to his story.

I was curious about a 'screenplay' credit in a documentary and his creative use of re-enactments. Kastner responds, "There is no narration per se, although some scenes are reenacted over dialog from real interviews. Recreations can be challenging. But any aesthetic tool you can do well or badly. Thin Blue Line is an example of it being well done." He defines docudramas as "creative non-fiction," adding, "The curse of a documentary is always what are you going to look at other than talking heads. Archived footage is always an asset but in my film – and since the trial in St. Croix happened back when recordings and smartphones were not available – there is very little footage to utilize." When asked if he felt Labeet was innocent or guilty, Kastner responds, "in the end... the murder mystery is really about something else – the justice system, whether or not it works. It's about a guy who took the laws into his own hands, rather than a story about his guilt or innocence. One of Labeet's defense attorneys says, "We can speculate all day whether these guys did it or not, but what we know for sure is they did not get a fair trial or anything else. There was a grave miscarriage of justice that was committed" and confirmed in this film.

And lastly, when reminded that Assata Shakur is the most well known American fugitive in Cuba, Kastner noted that, "just last month there was a list of about 80 American fugitives given asylum there over the years. But lets say if Assata is #1 on the list – Labeet is in the top 5." Now with US-Cuba relations thawing, talks about swapping spies and prisoners are expected, and Labeet's future is possibly in jeopardy.


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