Filmed in Yemen, The Oath is an extraordinary portrait of Abu Jandal, former body guard to Osama bin Laden, jihadist, father, mentor, and cab driver.
He’s also an engaging and intriguing character with a magnetic personality. Dare I use the oxymoron charismatic extremist? Regardless, the film is a powerful document to the trails of the Middle East, the justice system, and the personal relationships affected by those complex networks. Tension comes not only from the timely subject matter but by the candid approach and ethnographic insights explored. Recent events make it particularly fitting to see right now.
How does one meet (let alone film) the former bin Laden body guard?
I was fortunate enough to have a phone conversation with editor and co-producer Jonathan Oppenheim. He gave some back-story and will be on hand for a Q&A after the screening to share more:
Oppenheim explained that the film originally focused on the families of Guantanamo bay prisoners who were waiting for their loved ones to be released. Abu Jandal was the brother-in-law of one such prisoner named Salim Hamdan. Another layer to the story is that Salim Hamdan is the plaintiff in the 2006 US Supreme Court Case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, also the first person to stand trial for war crimes at Guantánamo. A lawyer working on the case put Director Laura Poitras and Abu Jandal in touch. From the get-go Oppenheim stated Jandal was very forthcoming which is extremely surprising given his unique position. The footage was too important to ignore.
In an earlier interview, Director Laura Poitras stated, “Themes of betrayal, guilt, loyalty, family and absence are not typically things that come to mind when we imagine a film about Al Qaeda and Guantánamo. Despite the dangers of telling this story, it compelled me.”
Perhaps it will for you too. Purchase tickets. The screening will take place on Thursday, June 23rd @ 7. Editor and co-producer, Jonathan Oppenheim will be on hand for a Q&A after the film. You won’t want to miss it.
The Oath is a co-production of Praxis Films and the Independent television Service (ITVS) in association with American Documentary | POV.