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Anti-Islam film contains controversial scenes by mystery director

September 12, 2012|By Rebecca Keegan, John Horn and Dawn C. Chmielewski
  • A scene from the trailer for the film "Innocence of Muslims."
A scene from the trailer for the film "Innocence of Muslims." (Sam Bacile )

The movie that apparently sparked attacks on U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya, leading to the death Tuesday of the U.S. ambassador in Libya, looks to be an amateur endeavor made by a filmmaker who is probably working under a pseudonym.

Nearly 14 minutes of scenes from a movie titled “Innocence of Muslims” and credited to a writer-director who calls himself Sam Bacile were posted on YouTube two months ago.

The clumsily assembled footage features actors in fake beards stiffly delivering lines about the sins of Muhammad on a village set against a greenscreen-created desert backdrop. It depicts images of the Islamic prophet Muhammad as a blood-hungry sexual deviant.

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The clip was first posted on YouTube July 2 by a man identified as Bacile. Wednesday, the Associated Press quoted the man saying that he made a two-hour film for $5 million. That budget seems unreasonably high given the poor quality of the footage.

Bacile's name does not appear in several public and private databases. In an interview with the Atlantic magazine, someone who worked on the film said that Bacile is, in fact, a pseudonym. The man behind the movie reportedly went into hiding after U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in a Tuesday night attack on the Benghazi, Libya, consulate.

The trailer on YouTube contains a number of controversial clips that are believed to have set off the spate of violence abroad.

In one scene, Muhammad, splattered in blood and wielding a sword, declares, "Every non-Muslim is an infidel. Their lands, their women, their children are our spoils."

In a number of sexually charged scenes, Muhammad is depicted with women; in another, he is described as gay and a child molester. Throughout the film, characters refer to Muhammad as a "bastard" with an "unknown father." In one scene, a veiled woman asks Muhammad to "put your head between my thighs."

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Some of the dialogue in the film appears to be dubbed, not the words the actors originally spoke, as when a doctor says the phrase “Islamic terrorists" in place of something else. In another scene where it appears the original dialogue was replaced, a sword-wielding man declares, "Muhammad is our messenger and the Koran our constitution."

Around 10 a.m. Wednesday, YouTube added a disclaimer to the 14-minute preview: “The following content has been identified by the YouTube community as being potentially offensive or inappropriate. Viewer discretion is advised.”

YouTube said it moved to temporarily restrict access to the video in Libya and Egypt in the wake of the violence. However, it said it will not remove the controversial video, saying it does not violate the community guidelines it sets forth, which prohibit sexually explicit content, graphic or gratuitous depictions of violence or other "bad stuff," such as animal abuse, drug abuse or underage drinking. Nor does it tolerate hate speech.

"We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions," a YouTube spokesman said in a statement. "This can be a challenge because what's OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere. This video -- which is widely available on the Web -- is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube."

As of Wednesday morning, the more than 14,000 comments for the YouTube trailer were widely varied, with many viewers expressing contempt, often in vulgar terms, for Islam. Several people attacked Judaism, and several said the filmmaking was inept. The video had 3,978 likes, 11,002 dislikes by 11 a.m.

Some commentators condemned Islam and Muslim — one post by 2001EZ said ”Muslims are the oppressors of the world” — but several others called the trailer disgraceful.

It is “disgusting how the makers are completely misrepresenting Islam in order to spread their bigoted beliefs,” said a commentator identified as felixcchow. Added Nazirah Atiq: “Shame on those dumb people who worked on this movie.”

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