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In her documentary The Oath, Laura Poitras follows the lives of two men, both past associates of Osama Bin Laden. Salim Hamdan, Bin Laden’s former chauffeur, was imprisoned at Guantanámo Bay and, following a well-publicized court case, eventually released. His brother-inlaw, Abu Jandal, had once worked as Bin Laden’s bodyguard, and after his own, much shorter detention in Yemen, became a taxi driver to support his family. Hamdan’s story, which unfolds as a prolonged legal and political battle, is paralleled by interviews with Jandal as he works and goes about his daily routine. Passionate and charismatic, Jandal reveals himself as a complex and conflicted character, a man who now renounces violent terrorism, but still supports the goals of Al Qaeda. Poitras tells these interlocked stories without overt editorializing, allowing a picture of their lives to emerge through carefully framed details. The Oath is the second installment of a projected trilogy documenting America post 9/11; the first film, My Country, My Country (2006), covered post-invasion Iraq, and the third, now in progress, will show how the war has ultimately come home. For more information on Poitras and her films, visit Zeitgeist Films.
Laura Poitras’s work is being screened in the Museum’s second floor film & video gallery May 30 through June 3.