February 12, 2010 - Professor Aliza Kaplan is known for many things at the Law School. Her passion as a legal writing instructor, her steadfast dedication to the asylum seekers she represents through the Law School’s Safe Harbor Project, and her work on the National Advisory Committee of Equal Justice Works, the nation’s leading public interest law fellowship program. But in addition to the many legal hats she wears, Kaplan is also a documentary film producer.
Her 2006 film, My Country, My Country, written and directed by her longtime friend Laura Poitras, was nominated for an Academy Award. Kaplan is also the co-producer of Poitras’ follow up documentary, The Oath, which premiered at Sundance in January, where it took the prize for Best Cinematography in a documentary. It will be released nationwide in May.
The film, the second installment of Poitras’ post-9/11 trilogy, presents the story of two brothers-in-law, Abu Jandal—Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard, and his most famous recruit, Salim Hamdan—who is on trial for terrorism. The film delves into Abu Jandal’s daily life as a taxi driver in Yemen and Hamdan’s military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay prison. “The complications emerging from a life devoted to jihadist revolution are considered with genuine fascination in Laura Poitras’ The Oath,” wrote Robert Koehler in a review of the film for Variety.
For Kaplan, the urge to produce came from a desire to explore the complexity of the human condition. “I am drawn to films that tell the stories of real people,” she said. “There is so much more to a person than what you see on the surface, and Laura does a beautiful job of exploring these layers. She tells very intimate stories of real people.” In this way, Kaplan explains, her production work dovetails with her ultimate goal as an advocate. “I am most concerned with changing the course of people’s lives.”
Learn more about The Oath.