Innocence of Muslims: How bad? How cheap? How wrong?
It’s caused a storm from Cairo to Khartoum – but what do we know about this blasphemous film?
AS PROTESTS spread to Yemen and Sudan, with the BBC reporting attacks on the British and German embassies in Khartoum, what do we know about the blasphemous anti-Islam film, Innocence of Muslims, at the centre of the storm? The Week seeks to answer the key questions:
Has anyone seen the whole film?
The 14-minute video circulating on the internet is in fact a preview of what is believed to be a feature-length film made by Sam Bacile. But does this really exist? The only evidence of the film ever being screened publicly comes from Steve Klein, a consultant, who says it was shown once at a cinema on Sunset Boulevard earlier this summer. "I got there about a half-hour before the movie started and stayed a half-hour after it started," Klein told Bloomberg Businessweek, "and I saw zero — nada, none, no people — go inside."
What is it about?
The film claims to tell the true story of the Prophet Mohammed, depicting him as “as a homosexual son of undetermined patrimony, who rises to advocate child slavery and extramarital sex, for himself, in the name of religion”, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Prophet is shown leading a group of followers as they destroy Christian homes. Although the characters are Egyptian, they speak with strong New York accents.
Who is Sam Bacile?
The video was originally posted on the internet by Sam Bacile, who claimed to be the film-maker. He told the Wall Street Journal that he was a 52-year old Israeli real-estate development living in California. After his story aroused suspicion, the Associated Press discovered that ‘Sam Bacile’ was in fact Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Coptic Christian activist in southern California who is on probation after a conviction for financial crimes. Nakoula is known to have assumed at least 12 different pseudonyms in the past, including Matthew Nekola, Nicola Bacily, and even P.J. Tobacco. He is now under police protection in his California home.
Did Bacile/Nakoula direct the film?
Although Nakoula originally claimed to have directed The Innocence of Muslims, the casting call for the film listed the director as Alan Roberts. Although some have suggested that this is also a pseudonym, a director of the same name is listed on IMDB.com with credits including the 1977 soft-porn film Young Lady Chatterley. But the film crew said the man had little experience. According to Eric Moer, production electrician, "He was a directorial hack, he didn't know basic things. It was very unprofessional".
What do the actors have to say?
The cast have expressed horror at the eventual cut, claiming they were duped into thinking they were acting in a film called Desert Warrior. Speaking to Al Arabiya on condition of anonymity, one actor said that the film was “defamatory” while another said they were shocked to have been part of “something so dirty and disgusting”. They have claimed that the film went through heavy edits in post-production, adding in offensive references to the Prophet Mohammed that did not appear in the original script. A quick flick through the 14-minute reel does indeed suggest that a good deal of dubbing has been added. When the name Mohammed is spoken, actors are either off-screen or appear to be saying something different.
Did the film really cost $5m?
Nakoula has claimed that the production had a budget of $5 million, raised from 100 Jewish donors. This has been contested. Jimmy Israel, a realtor linked to the film, told Buzfeed that the budget was in fact $100,000. However, an expert from a leading London post-production agency believes that these figures are “absurd”. He told Al Arabiya: “A resourceful student could have made this YouTube video for a few thousand dollars. Even paying through the nose I can’t imagine it costing more than $40,000.” One actor claimed to have been paid $75 for the day while an actress said that her day fee was $100.