- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
The story of the film that reportedly inspired yesterday’s protests in Egypt and Libya — though according to U.S. officials, not the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya — keeps getting stranger and more confusing.
As I noted in an update to my earlier post on this, The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg has interviewed Steve Klein, an anti-Islamic Christian activist who reportedly worked as a consultant on the project. Klein told Goldberg that "Sam Bacile," the alleged writer-director, is not actually Israeli or Jewish as reported earlier, and that may not even be his real name. (It’s a bit odd that Klein didn’t mention this in an earlier comment for the AP.)
CNN, meanwhile, is running this statement "on the behalf of the 80 cast and crew members" — though it’s not clear where it comes from:
"The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer. We are 100% not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose," the statement says. "We are shocked by the drastic re-writes of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred."
Buzzfeed’s Rosie Gray also notes that the films numerous obvious overdubs may indicate that the footage used in the film was intended for something quite different:
[N]early all of the names in the movie’s "trailer" are overdubbed. The video is a compilation of the most clumsily overdubbed moments from what is in reality an incoherent, haphazardly-edited set of scenes. Among the overdubbed words is "Mohammed," suggesting that the footage was taken from a film about something else entirely. The footage also suggests multiple video sources — there are obvious and jarring discrepancies among actors and locations.
The "obvious and jarring discrepancies" may just be the result of amateurish continuity problems, but the overdubbing does make it seem possible that the participants may not have known what the film they were making was actually about or that footage from another film altogether was recut.
This is pure speculation on my part but the very white actor playing Mohammed actually looks a bit more like a traditional portrayal of Jesus. Perhaps the participants believed they were making some kind of Life of Brian-style biblical farce that was recut to refer to Mohammed? Or maybe footage was taken from a completely different movie by some online prankster? The only person claiming this movie was ever shown in a theater is "Bacile," who may or may not be a real person.
Expect this to get even weirder soon.
Update: Gawker gets the scoop. Looks like the actors were deceived:
Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress from Bakersfield, Calif., has a small role in the Muhammed movie as a woman whose young daughter is given to Muhammed to marry. But in a phone interview this afternoon, Garcia told us she had no idea she was participating in an offensive spoof on the life of Muhammed when she answered a casting call through an agency last summer and got the part.
The script she was given was titled simply Desert Warriors.
"It was going to be a film based on how things were 2,000 years ago," Garcia said. "It wasn’t based on anything to do with religion, it was just on how things were run in Egypt. There wasn’t anything about Muhammed or Muslims or anything."
In the script and during the shooting, nothing indicated the controversial nature of the final product. Muhammed wasn’t even called Muhammed; he was "Master George," Garcia said. The words Muhammed were dubbed over in post-production, as were essentially all other offensive references to Islam and Muhammed.
Update 2: The updated version of the AP story has some more on the alleged screening of the full film:
The only sparse evidence indicating that an entire version of Innocence of Muslims was filmed beyond its 13.5-minute trailer came in comments from an employee of the Vine Theater, a Hollywood Boulevard theater that was padlocked on Wednesday. The theater employee, who declined to identify himself, said that a version of Innocence of Muslims ran briefly several months ago at the theater and that a man whose first name was Sam had brought the film to the theater