The Oath

The Oath tells the story of two brothers-in-law once close to Osama bin Laden. Abu Jandal was his bodyguard, an Al Qaeda insider, who in 1996 recruited Salim Hamdan to work as bin Laden's driver. As the film opens their fates have diverged: Abu Jandal drives a taxi through the dusty streets of Sana'a, Yemen's capital, while Hamdan faces war crime charges from Guantánamo Prison. Outstanding cinematography adds a human dimension to a world often demonized by the Western media. The intimate lens of Poitras and cinematographer Kirsten Johnson effectively captures Abu Jandal's rapidly shifting expressions as he tells his tale, most often from behind the wheel of his taxi. Denied access to Salim Hamdad before and during trial, the filmmakers present him as a painful absence, conveyed through letters from his isolation cell, narrated by Moustafa Ali and accompanied by stark, strange, and artificial exterior shots of Guantánamo Prison. Filmed on location in Yemen and Guantánamo, with media clips and observational footage, including excerpts from Hamdan's chilling interrogation video, the film quietly delves into the intertwined narratives of Abu Jandal's daily life and Hamdan's military trial. Complex characters emerge who continue to surprise and explanatory graphic intertitles have dramatic impact. Woven with themes of family, guilt, betrayal, and regret, the film depicts charismatic Abu Jandal tending his son at home and discussing with young men his evolving ideas of jihad. Hamdan's military lawyers challenge the fundamental injustice of his detention and trial. Through this personal story slowly unfolds an indictment of the “War on Terror.”

This page may by only partially complete. For additional information about this film, view the original entry on our archived site.