Laura Poitras spent two years in Yemen shooting footage for THE OATH. What began as an investigation into the military prison at Guantanamo Bay became instead a remarkable portrait of two brothers-in-law and their separate journeys in the wake of the American invasion of Afghanistan. Abu Jandal, now a Yemeni taxi driver, was bin Ladin’s bodyguard, Salim Hamdan, who was imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, was bin Ladin’s driver.
When I spoke with Poitras on April 27, 2010, she talked about the remarkable access she gained to Jandal, her concerns for her own safety, and how making her Oscar(tm)- nominated film, MY COUNTRY MY COUNTRY, paved the way for making the new film. She also discussed getting to the truth with Jandal, a man who know how to manipulate the media, second-guessing her own expectations, and how a chef in a French restaurant becomes an award-winning documentarian.
In THE OATH, what begins as an intimate introduction to Jandal, a Yemeni cab driver and former bodyguard to Osama bin Laden, becomes a consideration of the United States’ reaction to global terrorism, as Jandal, former bodyguard to Osama bin Laden and confirmed source for much that is known about al Quaeda, muses on his political philosophy past and present, and his uncertain future with a younger generation who has put him on a death list. He also discusses his feelings of guilt over recruiting his brother-in-law, Salim Hamdan, who was bin Laden’s driver, and after incarceration in Guantanamo, became the first person tried under the controversial American military tribunals. Spending two years in Yemen, Poitras gained unprecedented access to Jandal, partly because of her previous work, the Oscar(tm) Nominated MY COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY, which told the story of the American occupation of Iraq through the eyes of an Iraqi doctor.