A jihadist, that’s what Abu Jandal’s eight-year-old son wants to be when he grows up—just like his father. Jandal laughs off his son’s plan with a twinkle in his eyes, saying, “You’re causing a lot of problems for yourself!” After all, Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard has left his career as a terrorist behind him. He emigrated to Yemen, where he now works as a taxi driver.
He may appear in international media as an ex-terrorist, but he's also teaching young Yemeni men about “the American heathens.” He talks about his brother-in-law Salim Hamdan, who was imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay in 2001 and was one of the first terrorism suspects to be put on trial, in 2004. Although Hamdan is neither able nor allowed to appear onscreen, The Oath is also a portrait of this—probably innocent—detainee.
The film’s title refers to the oath that all Al Qaeda recruits, including Abu Jandal, swear to Bin Laden, as well as to the judicial oath that will be so important to Hamdan. Filmmaker Laura Poitras’s calm observational style casts grave doubts on American Middle East policy of recent decades.