In the middle of a new Channel 4 documentary about the incredible story of a man who survived being stowed away on a flight from Johannesburg to London, and his friend who didn’t make it, an almost unbearably painful moment arrives.
It occurs when the daughter of the man who died is confronted with the first picture of him that the creators of The Man Who Fell from Heaven have ever seen. The filmmakers traveled to his native Mozambique to try to piece together the desperate attempt he made in 2015 to create a new life. “She doesn’t recognize him,” says her mother, Anna, as Chemilla, 11, looks at a photo on her phone of Carlito Vale.
As tears pour, Anna adds, “I am very grateful to all the people who continue to acknowledge that he is human. “After dropping out of the landing gear of a BA jet as it approached the runway after an 8,000-mile journey, Vale’s tragedy came to light when his body was found on a rooftop below Heathrow’s flight route.
I wanted to know more, not only about him, but about the survivor, who remained in critical condition, just like other journalists who flocked to the Heathrow area of western London after Vale’s remains were discovered in the summer of 2015.
After talking to the founder of the orphanage where he grew up, who wanted to thank those who had laid flowers on the scene near Heathrow, I heard more about Vale a few months later. Vale was a young Mozambican whose first trips abroad brought him to Uganda and South Africa.
But despite many journalists’ attempts, his companion’s fate remained untold in Britain. When documentary filmmaker Rich Bentley finally meets Themba Cabeka on a street corner in Liverpool, who now calls himself Justin and has lived in Britain for five years, that changes in The Man Who Fell from the Sky. At a time when men, women and children are drowning in the English Channel, people like Justin and Vale are desperate to enter Britain in search of a better life. His story is all the more poignant. “I thought it was worth it,”I thought it was worth it. “Because of my situation and what I was going through, it was the only choice I had to survive. “In The Man Who Fell from the Sky, over the course of a five-year project by producer Bentley and director Sam Forsdike, the story of Cabeka and Vale’s journey to Britain slowly unfolds.
The pair accompanied a man on his journey to find the stranger who saved him from taking his own life from Waterloo Bridge in London in their previous documentary, The Stranger on the Bridge. Their new film has similar elements, but is far more far-reaching in its ambition, an impressive combination of investigative journalism and social commentary. We learn at the outset that there have been as many as 109 reported stowaway attempts in aircraft wheel wells, and that London is the most popular destination.
Since October 1996, at least 16 cases have been recorded of stowaways on flights passing through London.
And the ones we know about are those.
The interviews include West London residents who were suddenly reminded of the global south’s realities when a stowaway dropped over them from the sky. The breakthrough comes on Christmas Eve 2019, when a man Bentley had spoken to three years earlier to say he had “found” Cabeka. Before that, there is an interview with a pilot who landed a flight from Delhi at Heathrow in 1996 wheeled to Heathrow. He might as well be outside in terms of heat and oxygen,”In terms of heat and oxygen, he might as well be outside,” The name of the teenager was Vijay Saini and it was not until three days later that his body was identified. His brother Pardeep, who was 22 at the time, survived the 10-hour journey in freezing temperatures from Delhi and was given a year’s relief to remain in the United Kingdom following an appeal to the Home Office. Nineteen years after the brothers, Vale and Cabeka put their plan into motion to enter the United Kingdom when they scaled the fence at Johannesburg International Airport and boarded a BA plane.
Coverage in 2015 based on allegations that a Johannesburg airport employee may have helped the couple, but Cabeka maintains that the couple must have helped