Melvin & Jean: An American Story
Melvin & Jean: An American Story is a poignant tale of two people, the radical 60s, crime in the name of a cause, and second chances. The documentary follows Melvin and Jean McNair from revolt and exile to renewal and reconciliation.
As a young couple in 1972, the McNairs made news when they hijacked a plane from Detroit to Algeria to join the international section of the Black Panthers. Simultaneously an act of political resistance to racism and the Vietnam War and an act of desperation committed by two young people who saw no other way to escape the constant state of racial oppression in the US, the controversial act continues to have long-term repercussions decades later.
After serving several years in prison in France for the hijacking, the McNairs remained in France and, for 35 years, have lived as model citizens in their adopted country. Forty years after the fact, the two are still coming to terms with their crime and its lifelong consequences as they try to gain the freedom to return home without spending the rest of their lives behind bars in America.
Winner, Best Documentary, International Black Film Festival, Nashville, 2013
Winner, Best Film/Black Experience, International Black Cinema, Berlin
Official Selection, DOC NYC, 2012
Black International Cinema Berlin
African Diaspora International Film Festival
Creatively Speaking, MIST Harlem
France 3/La Chaine Parlementaire
Time and Space Limited, Hudson, NY
Pan African Film Festival
Charlotte Black Film Festival
New Voices in Black Cinema
“The story builds like a thriller, almost like a or detective novel. Maia Wechsler doesn't let us catch our breath. Hard-hitting, well-researched and fast-paced, the film is gripping.”
- Ouest France (West France)
"Powerful. . . another masterful work by award winning documentarian Maia Wechsler."
- Huffington Post
"Maia Wechsler has woven a masterful web around this critical sequence of events within American history that desperately needs to be told and remembered. Melvin and Jean also reveals the ugly truth behind the American criminal justice system whose methods of penalization over rehabilitation continue to reinforce an unforgiving system of power and control, particularly for people of color with a conscience."
- Michelle Materre, Media Studies Professor, The New School and Curator, Creatively Speaking Film Series
“A surprising and moving reflection on the nature of crime and hate and forgiveness and love. . . and patriotism.”
- Caitlyn Boyle, Founder Film Sprout