A documentary by Jamie Kastner. Rating unavailable
In 1972, 16 people were shot on the grounds of the Fountain Valley Golf Club in St. Croix, part of the Virgin Islands—then and now an American “protectorate”. Eight died, and after a massive roundup of black militants, petty criminals, and whoever happened to be around, a self-styled revolutionary called Ishmael Muslim Ali was given multiple life sentences for the massacre.
Offering nifty blaxploitation graphics and music, The Skyjacker’s Tale mixes archival footage with well-detailed re-creations and present-day interviews to explore a little-known chapter in U.S. colonial politics.
Born Ronald LaBeet to a local mother and a German father, he grew up poor and frustrated at the island’s colour-based caste system. Technically an American citizen, LaBeet ended up in the U.S. army, was quickly shipped to Vietnam, and came back, like many others, radicalized by the experience. He got involved with the Black Panther movement and converted to Islam.
Canadian filmmaker Jamie Kastner (The Secret Disco Revolution) makes it clear that police used torture to get confessions from Ali and his codefendants (unnamed here), and that the trial itself was a pure sham. The judge was a corporate hack appointed by Richard Nixon, and the lead lawyer, famed activist William Kunstler, may have muddied the waters by overpoliticizing their defence.
Anyway, Ali spent more than a dozen years in American prisons before returning to St. Croix on appeal. When that was denied, he managed to smuggle a gun onboard the return flight (or so he says); he then overpowered his guards and forced the American Airlines pilot to head for Cuba, where Kastner recently found him.
The filmmaker doesn’t seem terribly interested in establishing Ali’s role in the first crime, although the victims of the hijacking (which happened without bloodshed) are less forgiving.
Aside from needing a bigger dose of moral curiosity, the generally engaging movie has a curiously jumbled time frame that takes its cues from Ali himself—a notably unlikable figure whose profanity-laden self-mythologizing lacks wisdom or even insight.