Filmed in Yemen, The Oath tells the story of two men whose fateful encounter in 1996 set them on a course of events that led them to Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, 9/11, Guantanamo, and the U.S. Supreme Court.
This film is not currently playing on MUBI but 30 other great films are. See what’s now showing
Well constructed documentary from Poitras looking at the aftermath for two men who were directly involved with Bin Laden. For one it meant trial and illegal incarceration for the other a changed viewpoint on how to battle his enemy and possibly teach a new generation a new way. One wonders if Abu Jandal is guilty of some self re-invention and self-grandeur here as well.
Poitras sure knows where to go and where to point a camera in order to be of maximum use to us (!). Sometimes I take minor issue w/ the way she organizes her material. Not here. This one feels righteously rendered, though by virtue of an impressionist rather than a purely clinical set of artistic criteria (which might just be the same thing as saying the criteria are artistic). I liked feeling my way around this.
This doc feels like you're looking into the soul of Abu Jandal, and by association, the soul of a (former) Jihadist. His conversations with the youth and his own son were very compelling. It actually reminded me of Malcolm X (which I watched a couple days ago) when he speak on the need for education and dialogue.
Muted portrait of two men (one of them by triangulation) involved in the life of Osama bin Laden and what has come of them. Ambiguous and thoughtful, this is a film disinterested in answers, but rather— how do two people living under American Empire find meaning? What does it move them towards?
Beautifully done. Not only does The Oath "shed light on the complex meanings jihad might have for a young Muslim man, ... Poitras takes on the very notion of pledging an oath and what it means for a thinking, constantly transforming individual [of any ilk] to swear loyalty to an idea or an institution that itself undergoes ideological shifts depending on political context." - Irina Leimbacher, Film Comment
Among the most challenging documentaries out there, Poitras presents a searing portrait of the inadequacies and contradictions of both the American War on Terror, as well as the conflicting, contradictory, and seemingly fluctuating beliefs and attitudes of those in its path. Spare and subtle imagery conveys much here, and the filmmaking, intelligently, never leaves us sure of the trustworthiness of its subject.
Compelling content, beautifully shot and edited - an impressive film right from the opening. And a much needed antidote to the usual War on Terror oversimplifications and rhetoric-fuelled hysteria. For a similarly personal and complex portrait of jihadism (and the blundering/dangerous US response) see The Father The Son and The Holy Jihad (2016).