Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sundance Films: The Oath

Title: The Oath
Director: Laura Poitras
Website: no individual site, but click here for Sundance page

Summary: Unraveling like a lush, gripping novel that constantly subverts expectations, The Oath is the interlocking drama of two brothers-in-law, Abu Jandal and Salim Hamdam, whose associations with al Qaeda in the 1990s propelled them on divergent courses. The film delves into Abu Jandal's daily life as a taxi driver in Sana’a, Yemen, and Hamdan’s military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay prison. Abu Jandal and Hamdan’s personal stories—how they came to serve as Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard and driver respectively—act as prisms through which to humanize and contextualize a world the Western media demonizes. As Hamdan’s trial progresses, his military lawyers challenge fundamental flaws in the court system. As charismatic Abu Jandal dialogues with his son, Muslim students, and journalists, he generously unveils the complex evolution of his belief system since 9/11. Exquisitely constructed so multiple threads and time periods commingle seamlessly, and gaining astonishingly intimate access to subjects and information, The Oath illuminates a realm too long misunderstood (Sundance).

Thoughts: First off, before even reading the summary, seeing The Oath win the Cinematography award for documentaries instantly puts this as a must see film. But then, when you take in the actual story itself, you begin to realize this could very well be a seminal work in our beloved genre. Al Qaeda isn’t exactly a group people in the U.S. will want to show sympathy towards, so Poitras attempt to paint a humanizing portrait may be condemned by many, but hopefully this is a work that opens eyes and changes perceptions.

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