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Leila Khaled: Hijacker
A film by Lina Makboul
Sweden/Jordan, 2005, 58 minutes, Color, DVD, Swedish and Arabic, Subtitled
Order No. W07913
In 1969 Palestinian Leila Khaled made history by becoming the first woman to hijack an airplane. As a Palestinian child growing up in Sweden, filmmaker Lina Makboul admired Khaled for her bold actions; as an adult, she began asking complex questions about the legacy created by her childhood hero. This fascinating documentary is at once a portrait of Khaled, an exploration of the filmmaker’s own understanding of her Palestinian identity, and a complicated examination of the nebulous dichotomy between "terrorist" and "freedom fighter."

When Makboul tracks Khaled down, she finds Khaled living an ordinary life in Jordan, still firm in her belief that her actions were necessary and fully justified. The film weaves together scenes with Khaled, archival footage, and interviews with the people who were on the planes Khaled hijacked. Makboul searches for a way to reconcile her understanding of the Palestinian national narrative - which now includes Khaled’s actions - with the negative image she encounters from the rest of the world of Palestinians as bloodthirsty terrorists. At the same time, she comes to know Khaled for the very real person that she is as they talk, travel together, and share meals. The result is a multi-dimensional film unlike any other in its skillful handling of the complexities that arise when liberation movements incorporate violence as a tactic.


Full Frame Doc F F, Spectrum Award, Hon. Mention

  • Women's Film Festival, VT
  • International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)
  • Silverdocs Documentary Festival
  • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
  • Riverside International Film Festival
  • Chicago Palestine Film Festival
  • CineMujer Film Festival
  • Gothenburg Film Festival, Sweden
  • Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival, Greece
  • DocuDays: Beirut Int'l Documentary Film Festival
  • Encounters South African Int’l Documentary Festival
  • Int’l Women's Film Festival, Créteil, France
  • Jerusalem Cinematheque, Israel
  • Doxa Documentary Film Festival, Canada
  • Women's Film Festival, Seoul, Korea
  • It´s All True Film Festival, Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Arab Film Festival, San Francisco, CA
  • Belfast Film Festival, Ireland

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    “Fascinating…Probing into the term terrorism, the usefulness of the PFLF hijacking tactics, and the price Khaled (and others) are paying, Makboul sets a critical distance from her subject, while at the same time affectionately charting how Khaled became admired by herself and so many other Palestinians and Arabs.”
    Dorit Naaman
    Film Studies, Queens University

    “Compelling and engrossing…situates Khaled as one of the century’s leading political activists, a revolutionary in multiple ways simultaneously breaking the boundaries of Arab gender structures and the political machinations that kept Palestinians from challenging their status as a dispossessed people.”
    Julie Peteet
    Author, “Gender in Crisis: Women and the Palestinian Resistance Movement”

    “A rare gift…an unflinching and mesmerizing glimpse into the psychology of terror and the price of freedom.”
    Sky Sitney
    Director of Programming, Silverdocs

    “A fascinating journey”
    Jewish Independent

    “An astonishing testimony on violence and femininity.”
    Le monde diplomatique

    La Presse

    “Lina Makboul´s documentary is a small masterpiece”
    Dagens Nyheter

    “Intriguing, stunning and downright amazing.”
    Chicago Palestine Film Festival

    “Extraordinary…a warm, honest human portrayal of a world icon…This film should be seen far and wide.”
    Steven Markovitz
    Exec. Dir., Encounters Festival and Distribution

    "*** (Three stars.)  Provocative...Honest."
    Chicago Tribune

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    Leila Khaled: Hijacker is included in the following Special Collections.
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