- Running time:
- 90 minutes
- Laura Poitras
- Overall User Rating:
- (0 ratings)
Abu Jandal was a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. Jandal’s brother-in-law, Salim Hamdan, was bin Laden’s driver. Jandal, who was in prison at the time of 9/11, provided the FBI with information that identified al-Qaeda members involved in the 9/11 attacks and subsequently continued to live as a free man in Yemen. Hamdan was captured post-9/11 and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay before he was eventually tried by a military commission under controversial charges.
The buzz: Filmmaker Laura Poitras (“My Country, My Country”) spent two years working on this intimate portrait of Jandal, capturing his daily life, political views and sense of guilt over what happened to Hamdan. The film also tracks Hamdan’s trial and provides a look into his imprisonment through readings of letters he wrote.
The verdict: Talk about a tough sell. Audiences won’t even pay to see fiction films about the war and the Middle East, let alone a slow-burning first-person documentary that leaves all conclusions up to the viewer. What a shame. “The Oath” unfolds with the richness of a great novel and the insights of the best investigative journalism. Poitras isn’t politicizing her subject, she’s advocating for the sort of deeper consideration that gets lost in a “who shouts loudest?” media culture. Here’s a documentary that perfectly demonstrates the line between empathy and sympathy, gently nudging its audience toward an understanding that people are complex, situations are nuanced and looking at the world in black and white is a mistake no one can afford to make.
Did you know? “The Oath” is the second in what Poitras hopes will be a trilogy of films on the aftershocks of 9/11 (“My Country” looked at the invasion of Iraq through the eyes of a local doctor).