Strand Releasing has acquired all U.S. rights to Jamie Kastner’s documentary “The Skyjacker’s Tale” from C7 Intl. and plans a late spring release, Variety has learned exclusively.
The film, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, centers on skyjacker Ishmael Muslim Ali. He’d been convicted of murdering eight people in 1972 in the U.S. Virgin Islands, attempted to get his conviction overturned, and commandeered an American Airlines plane full of passengers to Cuba on New Year’s Eve 1984.
Ali, who remains a fugitive from the U.S., has continued living in Cuba. The film includes his first interview since the hijacking and features never-before-seen footage.
“We’re thrilled to have found the right U.S. home for this important, little-known American story,” says C7 International’s Baron Kastner. “We were fortunate to have had multiple offers out of TIFF, no mean feat for a doc these days, but Strand’s passion for the project and their highly curated, eclectic brand felt like the perfect fit.”
Ali continues to deny a role in the 1972 massacre, which took place at a time of racial tension in the Virgin Islands.
“Given the film’s contemporary resonance – Cuba, Black Lives Matter… – it’s very exciting to have Strand showing it to Americans,” Kastner said. “And for a controversial anti-hero like the Skyjacker to be getting a voice in Trump’s America, should be very interesting, to say the least.”
The film was financed entirely in Canada, which facilitated the Cuban shoot, with support from Telefilm Canada, the Rogers Group of Funds, the Canadian Media Fund, Ontario Media Development Corporation, Bell Media, Super Channel, and the Corus-Hot Docs Fund.
Kastner’s previous feature documentaries include “Secret Disco Revolution,” “Recessionize!,” and “Kike Like Me.” The deal was done between Strand Releasing’s Jon Gerrans and Laura Baron Kastner on behalf of C7 Intl.