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(Distributed by Zeitgeist Films, The Oath is now available on DVD. It opened at the IFC Center on May 7, 2010. To learn more go here. NOTE: This piece was first posted in connection with The Oath‘s screenings at ND/NF.)

A look inside the troubled heart of an ambivalent jihadist, Laura Poitras’s follow-up to her Oscar-nominated My Country, My Country (to date the most sublime documentary yet about our misadventures in Iraq) is an equally stunning meditation on the costs of extremism and the ways in which the perceived threats of terror, Islam and otherness have perverted our nation’s long held notions of justice and due process. Abu Jindal is a taxi driver in Yemen with a young son and a mountain of debt. He lives in perpetual fear of assassination or capture, having been the US’s central informant after 9/11 regarding the protocols and possible location of Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda’s leadership. After serving as Bin Laden’s personal bodyguard and protege from 1997-2000, Jindal yearns for a former life he has all but rebuked, even while he counsels younger men in the ideology of Jihad and regrets the capture and torture of his brother in law, Salim Hamdan, a former driver for Osama Bin Laden, who was held in Guantanamo from 2001 until 2009 and whose trial was the first of our legally ambiguous military tribunals. An act of great love and deep sorrow, The Oath is as essential a documentary as any that will grace American screens this year. Press the masterpiece button now.

— Brandon Harris

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Brandon Harris works nebulously in the world of American Independent Film as a critic and journalist, producer and director, writer and educator. The Cincinnati, Ohio native is a Contributing Editor for Filmmaker Magazine and teaches part time at the New York Film Academy. You can catch his reviews here at H2N and over on his site Cinema Echo Chamber. He resides in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, which is also the setting for his forthcoming feature film debut, Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa.

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