The Filmmaker Who Made the Anti-Islam Video That Sparked Violent Mideast Protests Is a Ghost
The attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya that left a U.S. ambassador and three embassy employees dead is being linked to protests over a YouTube trailer for a shitty satirical film about the prophet Muhammed. But the film's creator, a man who goes by the name "Sam Bacile," is a mystery.
The film that's thrown the Middle East into turmoil is a 14-minute trailer for the film "Innocence of Muslims" (or the "Life of Muhammed," or "Muslim Innocence, depending on reports). It depicts Muhammed as pedophile and doofus, and is filled with slapstick insults at Muslims. The movie is almost hilariously amateurish, like a Muslim version of Life of Brian shot by second-year film students. The trailer was posted to Youtube back in July, but was recently translated into Arabic and broadcast on Egyptian TV by a popular Cairo television host, Sheikh Khaled Abdallah, according to the Guardian. Hence the new protests.
The film's director and writer, "Sam Bacile," has since gone into hiding and is speaking to reporters from an "undisclosed location." Bacile told reporters he's an Israeli real estate developer living in California, and shot the film over three months in the summer of 2011 with $5 million put up by "100 Jewish donors."
The guy explicitly made the film to piss of Muslims, judging from his interviews. "Islam is a cancer," he's told multiple reporters. "This is a political movie, the U.S. lost a lot of money and a lot of people in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," he told the Washington Post, "but we're fighting with ideas"
But web and public record searches bring up no evidence of the supposed real estate mogul. The Israeli government told the Post they couldn't find records Sam Bacile was a citizen. Even Bacile's age is a mystery: He told the Wall Street Journal he was 52, but told the AP he's 56, as pointed out by Religion Dispatch. His YouTube page says he's 75.
Even more puzzling: It cost $5 million? That video?
The mystery deepend this afternoon when The Atlantic's Jeffery Goldberg reported that "Sam Bacile" is a pseudonym and not Israeli. He spoke to a consultant on the film, a self-described "militant Christian activist" in California named Steve Klein. Klein told Golbderg:
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."
Klein told Golbderg that around 15 people were involved in the making of the film, "They're from Syria, Turkey, Pakistan, they're some that are from Egypt. Some are Copts but the vast majority are Evangelical," he told Golbderg.
If Bacile isn't Jewish, perhaps he's connected instead to the Copts, the Egyptian Christian sect. The film has been promoted by the conservative U.S.-based Coptic minister (and friend of Terry Jones) Maurice Sadek. Bacile says he speaks Arabic and has relatives in Egypt, according to Klein—even though "fewer than 100 Jewish people" live in Egypt, according to journalist Laura Rozen.
Why did Bacile pretend to be an Israeli Jew? Maybe he cooked up the persona and shadowy cabal of Jewish funders in an attempt to further inflame the situation. The only thing we know for sure about Bacile: He's a terrible filmmaker. If you know anything else, please email me: Adrian@gawker.com
Update: Even more bizarrely, On the Media points out that all the references to Islam in the trailer were dubbed, added in post-production over apparently more innocuous lines.
Sarah Abdurrahman writes:
I can't help but wonder if the actors involved in the project were told what kind of film they were making. If you remove all the references to Islam in the trailer, the movie reads like some cheesy Arabian Nights story, and it is quite possible that that is all the actors thought they were doing.