The documentary tells the story of two brothers-in-law. Abu Jandal is now a taxi driver in Sana’a, Yemen, a city which, with its brown palette and odd street bazaars seems in the movie like a town on another planet (or perhaps one of Clive Barker’s “dominions”). He is facing diabetes and poverty, as part of the consequences a time in the 1990s when he became Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard, and then was arrested by Yemeni authorities in conjunction with the USS Cole incident in October 2000.
But the other man, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, was also bin Laden’s bodyguard and chauffeur (both) and was apprehended in the early days of the war in Afghanistan, before the Taliban was driven out. Hamdan is taken to Guantanamo, and tried in a military tribunal. The film shows us peaceful shots of Guantanamo Bay and interviews with Navy lawyers, including defense attorneys appointed, and in the end Hamdan is acquitted of some charges and given a relatively light sentence, in a 2008 trial of new charges.
Both men took an Oath to Allah, in which they specifically say they will always put Allah and tribal interests over their contents of their own minds. The Oath specifically forbids individual decision making.
The film covers the Supreme Court opinion Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, June 29, 2006 (supreme court link), as well as the Military Commissions Act of 2006, (text) passed after the Court opinion and viewed by some people as ex post facto law. The legal history is quite complex, and Hamdan still wound up being tried and convicted of some charges. Wkipedia gives the details in numerous articles, but the legal and procedural intricacies are hard to follow in the film.
Another interesting segment concerns the testimony of Jandal before Congress; apparently the FBI used a lot of his information before President Bush announced the Oct 2001 in Afghanistan, and the film covers a lot of intelligence memos that seem to have come very close to actually finding Osama bin Laden.
There are scenes where Jandal bonds with his young son, and where the son “learns” the “ideology” of jihad and embraces it without any cognitive grasp of what it means.
The theatrical distribution of the 90-minute film is handled by Zeitgeist, and on Saturday afternoon a small auditorium at Landmark’s E-Street theater was about half full. Zeitgeist's site for the film is here. The film is Winner of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival Excellence in Cinematography Award: Documentary. A co-production of ITVS in association with American Documentary/POV, and will air later on PBS as part of the POV series. The film was also produces in conjunction with ITVS (see television reviews blog June 29, 2010 for review of ITVS film “City of Borders”). Also, see TV Reviews blog April 5 , 2009 for review of NatGeo film "Inside Guantanamo".
Olbermann YouTube video “Bush became an absolute ruler today” on the Military Commissions Act, posted by vdoevidence911.