From award-winning Canadian filmmaker Jamie Kastner comes the feature-length documentary, “The Skyjacker’s Tale,” which gives audiences unprecedented access to one of the USA’s top five most wanted fugitives – Ishmael Muslim Ali (formerly LaBeet) – who lives in Cuba.
Called The Fountain Valley massacre, Ali was one of 5 Afro-Caribbean men convicted of murdering 8 (white) people on a Rockefeller-owned golf course in the US Virgin Islands. After years of trying to get his conviction overturned, he took matters into his own hands and hijacked an American Airlines flight that was full of passengers, en route to Cuba, on New Years Eve in 1984; and he got away with it, living at large in Cuba. That is, until now, with recent efforts to normalize Cuban–American relations.
LaBeet and the other 4 perpetrators were five Virgin Islanders whom authorities initially believed to have committed the execution-style shooting in the course of a robbery gone bad. However, in court, the defense, led by civil rights activist William Kunstler, argued in part that the accused were politically motivated victims of systematic race-based civil rights deprivation.
Thirty years on the FBI’s most wanted list and against the backdrop of his looming extradition to serve 8 consecutive life sentences in the US, the film recounts the hijacking that got LaBeet to Cuba, and re-examines his original trial, revealing a gross miscarriage of justice. In a story more relevant than ever with racially charged police brutality and racial injustice constantly in the headlines, “The Skyjacker’s Tale” captures LaBeet / Ali’s first interview since the hijacking, and includes never before seen footage. What emerges is a picture of American government and law enforcement attitudes and actions toward their own population that are shockingly similar to the headlines of today.
The film will attempt to answer the question: Is he a heartless criminal or a victim?
Strand Releasing will distribute the film in the USA and has set a June 30th open in New York City at the Village East theaters, with a national release to follow.
Ahead of the film’s theatrical premiere, Shadow and Act has been granted an exclusive clip from the critically-acclaimed documentary, featuring LaBeet / Ali talking about getting involved in the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s, and his respect for the organization’s mission; he also talks about returning to the Virgin Islands to combat racist struggle at home, post the Vietnam War.
Check out the clip below, followed by the previously-released trailer for the “The Skyjacker’s Tale.”