A trailer for the controversial film that sparked protests and attacks on U.S. diplomatic property and left four Americans dead is now being blocked in Afghanistan and Egypt. YouTube has blocked the video in Egypt, according to the AP, and Reuters is reporting that the government of Afghanistan has banned the entire site.
Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi has now asked the Egyptian embassy in Washington to “take all legal measure against the producers of the film that is offensive to Prophet Mohammad,” the official MENA news agency said.
While it is clear the trailer has provoked a strong reaction — exactly how or why it was created remains unclear.
The 13 minute trailer was for a film referred to as the “Innocence of Muslims,” which shows the Islamic Prophet Mohammad “as a child of uncertain parentage, a buffoon, a womanizer, a homosexual, a child molester and a greedy, bloodthirsty thug,” according to The New York Times.
The film was reportedly made by Sam Bacile, a writer and filmmaker. In an interview from an undisclosed location on Tuesday, Sam Bacile described himself as a 56-year-old “Israeli Jew” who lives in California. He reportedly made the film with $5 million from 100 Jewish donors.
“Islam is a cancer, period,” he told the AP.
Today, reporters have spent much of their day finding holes in Bacile’s story. Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic spoke to a “militant Christian activist” who had worked on the film, who said that “Sam Bacile” was likely a pseudonym and “Bacile” was neither Israeli or Jewish.
“Nobody is anything but an active American citizen,” The activist told Goldberg about the 15 people who worked on the film. They’re from Syria, Turkey, Pakistan, they’re some that (sic) are from Egypt. Some are Copts but the vast majority are Evangelical.”
Other reporters have noted that “Bacile” gives multiple accounts of his age to different publications (and that his YouTube account says he is 75).
Business Insider spoke to the AP about how they contacted Bacile. Paul Colford, director of media relations at the Associated Press, told us journalist Shaya Tayefe Mohajer used the wire service’s international resources to confirm Bacile’s whereabouts in Los Angeles, though he did not say whether those sources used the name Bacile.
“You can appreciate that AP would draw on more than [only those] sources in our own back yard,” he said. “There was a key connection or two from AP staffers oversees that led us to the filmmakers.”
“It was more than just the guy saying that’s my name.”
In addition to the name concerns, there are also problems with the trailer’s content. Gawker’s Adrien Chen observes that the trailer for the “Innocence of Muslims” sure does not look anything like a $5 million production. Even worse, the trailer might be for a film that doesn’t actually exist. Rosie Grey of Buzzfeed points out that the film appears to have been overdubbed — notably, the word Mohammad appears to be overdubbed many times — and that the footage suggests multiple video sources.
UPDATE: It looks like the actors and crew didn’t know what they were filming. Gawker has spoken to Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress from the film, who confirms the dubbing took place — and said she had no idea about the anti-Islamic sentiment behind the film.
Garcia apparently wasn’t alone in her confusion. Members of the 80 person actors and crew have released a statement to CNN. “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 reads.
Intriguingly, Garcia telle Gawker she met “Sam Bacile” on set and he claimed to be an Israeli real estate mogul. Later, however, he told her he was Egyptian, and she heard him speaking in Arabic with other men on set.
The Daily has the casting call for the movie, which doesn’t seem to mention anything about Islam. The director is listed as “Alan Roberts”.
UPDATE II: It looks like the may AP may have found one real person behind the movie — Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Coptic Christian living in California.
While Nakoula admits he played a role in the films production, he denies he posed as “Sam Bacile”, and said he had only a manager for the company that produced the film. However, AP was able to trace the phone numbers used to contact Bacile to Nakoula’s Los Angeles address.
The AP also reports that Nakoula is a convicted criminal who pleaded guilty to federal bank fraud in 2010. A quick Google turns up some legal documents that appear to confirm that.
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