This documentary is the second in a trilogy of films by Laura Poitras on post-9/11 America. The first was My Country, My Country which focuses on the U.S. occupation of Iraq from the vantage point of an Iraqi doctor. The third will be set in the United States at the time of the 9/11 trials. In The Oath, Poitras probes the lives of Osama bin Laden's bodyguard, Abu Jandal, and driver, Salim Hamdam. She sets the stage for viewers to assess the wartime dehumanization policies of the U.S. and the terrorist tactics of Al-Qaeda. Both have brought large doses of pain and death into the world.
Abu Jandal is a taxi driver in Yemen who recalls his days with Osama bin Laden as a bodyguard and part of his inner circle. He recruited Salim Hamdam, his cousin, to be a driver in the terrorist organization and describes him as a good-hearted man who did not participate in any of Al-Qaeda's military actions. Jandal says he feels guilty for the anguish and humiliation Hamdam endured as the first man to stand trial before the controversial Military Commissions at Guantanamo Bay. Since he cannot be seen on camera in the documentary, Hamdam speaks through a series of letters written during his seven years in prison.
Meanwhile, we see Jandal talking to jihadist recruits, praying with his young son, commenting on his interrogation by the FBI, sharing his response to some Al-Qaeda groups who view him as a traitor to the cause, and conveying his changed views on terrorism. What comes through loud and clear in this documentary is how terrorism and the toxic spin-offs of the War on Terror (specifically the legalization of torture, detention without trial, secret prisons) are equally repugnant.
Special features on the DVD include additional footage and interviews; and the theatrical trailers.