From the director of the Oscar—nominated My Country, My Country, The Oath is a spectacularly gripping documentary that unspools like a great political thriller. It’s the cross—cut tale of two men whose fateful meeting propelled them on divergent courses with Al—Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, 9/11, Guantanamo Bay Prison and the U.S. Supreme Court. Abu Jandal is a taxi driver in Sana’a, Yemen; his brother—in—law Salim Hamdan is a Guantanamo prisoner and the first man to face the controversial military tribunals. Jandal and Hamdan’s intertwined personal trajectories—how they became bin Laden’s bodyguard and driver respectively—act as prisms that serve to explore and contextualize a world which has confounded Western media. As Hamdan’s trial progresses, his military lawyers challenge fundamental flaws in the court system. The charismatic Jandal dialogues with his young son, Muslim students and journalists, and chillingly unveils the complex evolution of his belief system post—9/11. Winner of Best Documentary Cinematography at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, The Oath offers a rare window into a realm too long misunderstood—and the international impact of the U.S. War on Terror.
- Laura Poitras
[Director Laura Poitras] goes to great lengths to inject surprise into the narrative, strategically withholding information, including the double and triple meanings of her title.Mike Hale, New York Times, 06.24.2010
Just how deep inside Jandal's world Poitras goes is all the more striking given the inherent cultural barriers and danger she faced as a female filmmaker shooting a former Al Qaeda operative in Yemen.Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times, 06.24.2010
In its roundabout way, this usefully meandering documentary probes the enduring stain of Guantanamo on its victims and on America.Ella Taylor, Village Voice, 06.24.2010
Poitras's movie digs deep; it hints at the violently conflicting drives that an intelligent human being may be liable to.David Denby, New Yorker, 07.07.2010