In light of the fact that last week documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras risked documenting Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old who revealed himself to be the NSA surveillance whistle-blower, I decided I needed to watch one of her films.
I found “THE OATH” streaming on Netflix. It’s filled with lurid details from inside a jihadist world, a slowly drawn world, but definitely one worth watching. The documentary is the second of three films Poitras plans to make about the world post the terror attacks of 9/11. Her first film in the series is the Oscar-nominated “MY COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY.” It tells the story of a Sunni physician in Iraq during the run-up to to his country’s first national election in 2005.
The second – “THE OATH” – tells a story, from Yemen and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of a cab driver and his brother-in-law, both of whom worked for Osama bin Laden. The cab driver, known as Abu Jandal, served as director of hospitality for al Qaeda but left the organization prior to 9/11. His brother-in-law, Salim Hamdan, worked as bin Laden’s driver.
What makes “THE OATH” powerful is the strange situation that the free Jandal – his brother-in-law was imprisoned during the film – exists in. He was interrogated by the FBI, and he served time in a jail in Yemen, but now he’s free to drive a cab and teach young people about jihad. Jandal keeps you watching because he’s charismatic, obviously a hustler of sorts. But the most shocking thing in the film is this: “THE OATH” contains video footage of Osama bin Laden and Jandal together at a group meeting in 2000. In the video, bin Laden tells a group of followers, in essence, if they blow this opportunity to serve Allah, they will just be replaced by someone else.
The third installment in Poitras’ documentary series will surely be about how 9/11 has affected American lives, i.e., about whistle-blowers, government spy agencies, data mining and a mega-watt NSA data storage facility being built in Utah. Poitras no longer lives in the United States because she’s been put on a watch list by the federal government and now is detained and searched when she leaves and enters the country. Below is an event Poitras organized in New York City in April 2012 to let Americans know what whistle-blower Bill Binney, an ex-NSA code breaker, had to report about date the government collects on its own people.
You can purchase “MY COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY”: HERE.
You can purchase “THE OATH”: HERE.