In 1969 and again in 1970, the world's attention was captured by a striking young Palestinian woman who, in a span of two years, sensationally hijacked two passenger planes to draw global awareness to her people's cause. These audacious acts led to her imprisonment and a dramatic prisoner exchange, a narrative that has remained untold in her own words—until now.
Rooted in the first comprehensive major media interview with former Palestinian hijacker Leila Khaled, this film weaves together animated re-enactments, stock footage, and interviews with key figures and critics connected to her story. Through this dynamic blend, the film unveils a heart-pounding personal narrative that not only illuminates Leila's journey but also contextualizes the history of the Middle East's troubles. This narrative also provides a prism through which to trace the century-old conflict that still holds a grip on the news cycle today.
The film revolves around Leila Khaled, born in Haifa, Palestine in 1944. Her childhood was marked by the forced exodus of her family, along with 750,000 other Palestinians, just before the birth of Israel.
Raised as a refugee, Leila's political activism and determined spirit steered her away from a life as a schoolteacher, instead leading her to train as a Fedayeen—a resistance fighter—in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Singled out by PFLP leadership for a covert mission, she went on to achieve the unprecedented feat of hijacking a commercial flight—twice. Her global recognition and infamy sparked both celebration and condemnation.
The film culminates with a tense climax as a pregnant Leila flees Beirut on the cusp of the Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982.
Leila's own voice guides the narrative, supported by eyewitness accounts, vivid animated reconstructions, declassified government documents, newspaper clippings, contemporary footage, rare archival films, and never-before-heard audio recordings from her first hijacking.
Moreover, the film features interviews with experts closely connected to the conflict—soldiers, journalists, historians, politicians, and spies. Their perceptive insights provide a window into the distinct psychological and political pressures that shape perspectives, from global superpowers vying for dominance to civilians ensnared in the crossfire.
Telling Leila's story is tantamount to recounting the intertwined tales of Israel and Palestine. This film transcends being merely a portrayal of one of the 20th century's most polarising women; it becomes an impartial lens into one of modern history's most contentious and eventful timelines.