The Oath (2010, Laura Poitras)

With Poitras in the news so much, I’m getting around to watching her follow-up to My Country, My Country – supposed to be the second in a trilogy, but now that she’s embroiled in spy drama, I wonder if plans have changed for the third film. I kinda understood and kinda liked My Country, but The Oath is all-around incredible.

Two brothers-in-law worked for Osama bin Laden shortly before 2001, and now Osama’s bodyguard and Al Qaeda trainer Abu Jandal is free in Yemen, driving a cab, and Osama’s driver Salim Hamdan, who was much lower in the chain than Jandal, having never taken “the oath” or being trusted with insider info, has been in Guantanamo for most of a decade.

The movie follows Jandal, who holds jihadist meetings at home and discusses his history, and Hamdan’s lawyer, who’s refreshingly outspoken about his own military bosses’ injustices. Hamdan was “the first man with a personal connection to bin Laden captured after 9/11”, and his victorious 2006 case led to a new law being passed which was then used against him retroactively. His lawyer argued that you just can’t do that. They did anyway. Jandal was in prison during the 9/11 attacks and knew nothing of them. When he was told the details, he turned on his former comrades (he’d personally known all 19 hijackers) and told the FBI everything he knew about Al Qaeda’s operations. Unbelievably, Hamdan is released from Guantanamo and returns to his family in early 2009, but refused interview requests. Jandal: “He has become very quiet and introverted because he spent most of his time in solitary confinement. I no longer own a taxi. I had to sell my car because I was in so much debt. I am now in desperate need of income.”