- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
Sam Bacile has reportedly gone into hiding after his film, the “Innocence of Muslims,” provoked yesterday’s violence in Egypt in Libya, including the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
According to the
Israeli-American* Bacile, the movie was filmed in 2011 with a crew of 59 actors and about 45 people behind the camera. The full two-hour film was reportedly shown once at a nearly empty theater in L.A., but the controversy was caused by a 14-minute "trailer" on YouTube, which was at some point translated into Arabic. Bacile also claims to have had a $5 million budget provided by more than 100 donors, which judging by the quality of the final product indicates that he’s either lying or perpetrating a massive fraud on his investors.
One of Bacile’s advisors told the Associated Press that he had warned Bacile he was in danger of becoming "the next Theo van Gogh," referring to the Dutch filmmaker murdered in 2004 after codirecting an anti-Islam film with Somali-Dutch writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali. That’s a pretty bold aspiration for a product that makes the Danish Mohammed cartoons look like high art.
So you don’t have to watch it, "highlights" include:
An introduction featuring a Muslim mob in fake beards slaughtering Christians in modern-day Egypt as police look on. The rest of the film seems to be a flashback in which a father explains the roots of Islamic extremism to his daughter.
The insinuation that Mohammed is a "bastard of an unknown father"
Khadija comforting Mohammed by placing his head between her legs
Mohammed calling a donkey "the first Muslim animal"
Mohammed telling his followers they should feel free to molest children
Mohammed having sex with the wives of his followers
Mohammed also being gay. (When a follower asks if he is "dominant or submissive," he replies, "both.")
An old lady — with a mysterious New York accent — being drawn and quartered by camels
Lots of terrible overdubbing, cheesy green screen backgrounds, and The Room–level dialogue and acting.
In the end, it’s something that should be pretty embarrassing for all involved, and would have been rightfully ignored if extremists in Egypt and Libya hadn’t decided to use it as a pretext for violence.
Update: The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg interviews "militant christian activist" Steve Klein, a consultant on the film:
Klein told me that Bacile, the producer of the film, is not Israeli, and most likely not Jewish, as has been reported, and that the name is, in fact, a pseudonym. He said he did not know "Bacile"’s real name. He said Bacile contacted him because he leads anti-Islam protests outside of mosques and schools, and because, he said, he is a Vietnam veteran and an expert on uncovering al Qaeda cells in California. "After 9/11 I went out to look for terror cells in California and found them, piece of cake. Sam found out about me. The Middle East Christian and Jewish communities trust me."
He said the man who identified himself as Bacile asked him to help make the anti-Muhammad film. When I asked him to describe Bacile, he said: "I don’t know that much about him. I met him, I spoke to him for an hour. He’s not Israeli, no. I can you tell this for sure, the State of Israel is not involved, Terry Jones (the radical Christian Quran-burning pastor) is not involved. His name is a pseudonym. All these Middle Eastern folks I work with have pseudonyms. I doubt he’s Jewish. I would suspect this is a disinformation campaign."
If that’s true, "Bacile" has managed to smear another religion as well.