Director Of Anti-Islam Film Still A Mystery
The past 24 hours have produced a few answers — but many more questions — about the anti-Islam film that became a flashpoint across North Africa this week.
The Innocence of Muslims — or, more precisely, clips from the film that were repeatedly shown on an Egyptian TV program, and a 14-minute trailer of the film on YouTube (be warned, many have found the video offensive) — has sparked mass demonstrations in Libya, Egypt and Yemen, where protesters have decried the production as blasphemous.
Among the biggest questions: Who is responsible and what did they hope to accomplish? The director is listed as Sam Bacile, but that's almost certainly a pseudonym. Bacile has described himself as an Israeli Jew — information that also seems to be very much in doubt.
NPR's Carrie Kahn reports on Morning Edition that the movie was shot in Los Angeles County last August, under the title Desert Warriors. It's full of "choppy dialogue, bad acting and scenes of a buffoonish Muhammad," she says.
The head of the agency that coordinates filming in Los Angeles said it hadn't known what the movie was about, and the actors apparently didn't, either, Carrie reports. In the trailer, the offensive and blasphemous lines seem to have been dubbed over the actors' original lines.
The Associated Press tracked down a man named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, age 55, who says he managed logistics for the film's production company. Nakoula has denied directing the film, but claims to know Sam Bacile.
However, the AP says:
"Federal court papers filed in a 2010 criminal prosecution against him said Nakoula had used numerous aliases in the past. Among the fake names, the documents said, were Nicola Bacily and Erwin Salameh.
"During a conversation outside his home, Nakoula offered his driver's license to show his identity but kept his thumb over his middle name, Basseley. Records checks by the AP subsequently found that middle name as well as other connections to the Bacile persona."
The news agency reports that it traced its calls with Bacile back to Nakoula, who says he is a Coptic Christian and sympathizes with the movie.
Kahn says she interviewed Jim Horn, a well known anti-Islam activist in Southern California who says he probably knows the producer but won't divulge his name:
"Horn frequently hands out anti-Islamic pamphlets at area high schools with an insurance salesman named Steve Klein. Klein, who has been linked to a militant Christian hate group, says he was a consultant on the movie and also knows the man called Bacile."
An article in The Atlantic quotes Klein as saying Bacile "is not Israeli, and most likely not Jewish."
In the story, Klein claims that: "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."
Gainesville, Fla., Pastor Terry Jones, who sparked deadly riots in Afghanistan two years ago after threatening to burn the Quran, has denied Egyptian reports that he had a hand in producing The Innocence of Muslims, but he told The Daily Beast that he had been in contact with the film's producers and had agreed to promote it.
In a story on Gawker, Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress from Bakersfield, Calif., who had a small role in the film, confirms that she and the other actors were misled about the true nature of the film. She and others thought the film was "about the life of a generic Egyptian 2,000 years ago," according to Gawker.
In a statement sent to CNN, the film's 80-member cast and crew said it was "extremely upset and [feels] taken advantage of by the producer."
"We are 100 percent not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose," the statement said. "We are shocked by the drastic rewrites of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred."