Acknowledgments: I would like to thank the editors at Jump Cut for their valuable comments on an earlier version of this essay. This article originated as a seminar paper for Roger Hallas’ course “Cinema and the Documentary Idea” and benefitted from both his feedback as well as from the feedback offered by my colleagues in the course. An earlier version of this essay was also presented at the Society For Cinema and Media Studies conference in Montreal, Canada.
1. The videos about this process can be accessed here: http://www.forensic-architecture.org/case/saydnaya/ [return to page 1]
2 For a longer discussion of documentaries that address torture under the War on Terror, see Lesage, Julia. “Torture Documentaries.” Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, no. 51 (Spring 2009). http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc51.2009/TortureDocumentaries/.
3. In doing so, lawyer Rachel Meeropol notes that it “require[d] law enforcement to hold – by any means necessary – individuals suspected of having any link to terrorism, be it tenuous or totally unsupported, even if it meant enforcing immigration laws in a much stricter manner than is typical” (146).
4. This image appears here: http://nymag.com/news/9-11/10th-anniversary/hijackers/
5. The United States Supreme Court case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld ruled that the military commissions established by the Bush administration violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. [return to page 2]
6. Regarding Hamdan’s absence, Poitras has remarked “I feel okay (perhaps good) that you never see him because that is the situation with many of those still imprisoned” (qtd. in Ratner 16).
7. The voice without visible source is what Michel Chion refers to as the acousmêtre, “the situation in which we don’t see the person we hear, as his voice comes from the center of the image, the same source of all the film’s other sounds” (9). Chion argues that “[f]or the spectator, the filmic acousmêtre is ‘offscreen,’ outside the image, and at the same time in the image,” further noting that “[i]t’s as if the voice were wandering along the surface, at once inside and outside, seeking a place to settle” (23). This liminal space Chion describes evokes the spectral qualities of Hamdan’s presence in the film.
8. Along similar lines, the geographer Derek Gregory argues that “[t]hrough this contorted legal geographing, Guantánamo was outside the United States in order to foreclose habeas corpus petitions from prisoners held there and inside the United States in order to forestall prosecutions for torturing them” (215-216, emphasis original).
9. The Guantánamo military commissions operate by different rules than standard U.S. civilian trials, including requiring only two-thirds of a jury to agree on a conviction instead of the standard unanimous agreement, allowing evidence obtained by torture, as well as the admissibility of secret evidence to which the defense does not have access. Part of the way that The Oath criticizes the inherent flaws of the military commissions system is, again, through its attempt, and failure, to represent Hamdan as a legal subject.
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