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PAFF 2014: 'Melvin & Jean: An American Story' (Couple Hijacks Plane To Escape Racial Oppression)

by Tambay A. Obenson
January 13, 2014 5:53 PM
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A new year of film festivals has officially launched with the grand-daddy of them all (here in the USA anyway) the Sundance Film Festival, just around the corner.

In February, however, all eyes will be on the Pan African Film Festival that takes place in Los Angeles, CA, which runs from February 6-172014, celebrating its 22nd anniversary.

Continuing on with highlights from this year's event... here's a documentary we've been tracking since late 2012, which will screen at the PAFF this year, titled Melvin & Jean: An American Story.

The fascinating story goes... when Melvin and Jean McNair hijacked a plane from Detroit to Algeria in 1972 with their two babies on board, they called it an act of political resistance. The hijacking was also an act of desperation committed by two people in their early twenties who saw no other way to escape what they felt was the constant state of racial oppression in America. Living in Paris for forty years after the hijacking and unable to return to the US, Melvin and Jean are still coming to terms with their act of crime and its lifelong consequences.

Intrigued? I hope so. 

Maia Wechsler is the film's director. 

This is a documentary, but I think many of you would agree that this is a story that deserves the scripted narrative treatment. Just check out the 4-minute preview below.

PAFF is celebrating its 22nd anniversary this year, screening a total of 172 films - 37 documentaries, 23 short documentaries, 55 narrative features, and 57 narrative shorts, as well as 11 webseries in the new category of new media - all representing 46 countries.

For more information about the official selections, visit the festival’s website at

Watch a preview of Melvin & Jean: An American Story below:

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More: Festival Dispatch

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  • Donella | January 14, 2014 6:27 PMReply

    I'm unfamiliar with this fascinating story so I have to play catch-up.

  • Shanae | January 14, 2014 8:07 AMReply

    I am SO excited to see this.

  • Troy | January 14, 2014 2:04 AMReply

    Donald Goines' Kenyatta character hijacked a plane from the Detroit area to escape prosecution. They flew to a southwestern desert however.

  • urbanauteur | January 13, 2014 6:58 PMReply

    Most intriguing;-)

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