The version referred to in “Sabena Hijacking: My Version” belongs to British airline pilot Reginald Levy, captain of Sabena Flight 971 when it was seized by Palestinian terrorists in May 1972. A tape telling his side of the story was reportedly found among his effects after his death, and this documentary at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival was created from that narrative and from a book he wrote on the subject.
The Boeing 707 was taken at gunpoint during a flight from Vienna to Jerusalem, with the hijackers demanding the release of 300 Palestinians from Israeli prisons.
Using the format of documentary footage, dramatic re-enactments and interviews, the film tries to strike a balance among all three and sometimes succeeds. More impressive are interviews with a surviving hijacker and three men who went on to become Israeli prime ministers, all of whom were involved with ending the crisis. Shimon Peres was the minister of transportation and communications, and Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu were members of Sayeret Matkal, the Special Forces commando unit that stormed the plane under the guise of being mechanics.
The hijacker who speaks in the film is Therese Halsa, who was 18 during the hijacking and served 13 years in prison for her role in the attempt, even though she received a life sentence. She recalls her determination to destroy the aircraft and everyone in it and still seems disappointed at her failure. Bassam Abu Sharif, former sidekick to Yasser Arafat and a PLO front man, also gets his say.
The dramatic sections of the film are a little stiff, but lead hijacker Ali Taha Abu Sneine, portrayed by actor George Iskandar, comes off as the most authentic of the lot, despite his constant and irritating threats to blow up the plane. Pilot Levy, played by Bobby Lax, comes off as the voice of calm and reason in the face of enormous pressure.