Friday, May 24, 2013
By PHIL WILLON and REBECCA KEEGAN Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES - In a run-down theater on a seedy stretch of Hollywood Boulevard this summer, an independent movie made its debut. The acting was amateurish, the dialogue clunky and the costumes no better than those sold for Halloween. Even with a pretty young woman beckoning pedestrians inside, fewer than 10 people attended.
Egyptian protesters wearing Guy Fawkes masks pose Tuesday in front of a wall of the U.S. embassy in Cairo. The protest was sparked by a YouTube film deemed offensive of Islam.
The Associated Press
YOUTUBE BLOCKS VIDEO IN LIBYA, EGYPT
AFTER PROTESTERS KILL AMERICANS
NEW YORK - YouTube has blocked a video attacking Islam's prophet Muhammad in Egypt and Libya, where angry protests were sparked by outrage at the video.
Ultraconservative Muslims inflamed by the video stormed the U.S. embassy in Cairo on Tuesday and replaced an American flag with an Islamic banner. Later Tuesday evening, protesters in Libya burned down the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi, killing the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three members of his staff.
The 14-minute video is a trailer to an amateurish, low-budget movie titled "Innocence of Muslims," which depicts Muhammad as a feckless philanderer who approved of child sexual abuse. Muslims find it offensive to depict Muhammad in any manner, let alone insult the prophet.
YouTube has elected to leave the video on its website, saying it doesn't violate its policies, but has blocked access to it in Egypt and Libya.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday condemned the attack in Benghazi and ordered increased security to protect American diplomatic personnel around the world.
But three months later, the movie -- "Innocence of Muslims" -- would be blamed the world over for inciting mobs in Egypt and Libya. The movie was filmed and first released in Southern California, but much else about its origins remains a mystery.
A man who identified himself as an Israeli American filmmaker claimed in telephone calls to news outlets Tuesday that he made the movie with backing from wealthy Jewish donors, but there were indications Wednesday that the name and story he gave were false and that the movie was tied to a group of Middle Eastern Christians who live in the U.S. and hold extreme anti-Islamic views.
One activist from Riverside County said the film was produced by naturalized Americans who came from Arab countries. Steve Klein, who said he served as a script consultant, said that he and the producers originally called the movie "Innocence of Bin Laden" in hopes of drawing underground Islamic extremists in the Los Angeles area.
"The movie was only supposed to show in Hollywood," said Klein, who described himself as "an unsophisticated James Bond."
He added, "We passed out fliers at mosques around California where we knew there was a small percentage of terrorists. And the idea was to locate ... those folks who believed Osama bin Laden was a great guy and to try to get them to come to the movie."
Klein said the movie was filmed this year, but he would not reveal the shooting location or the names of the producers. "Innocence of Bin Laden" premiered at the Vine Theater in late June, according to three people with knowledge of the event. One said that the movie was notable for its terrible acting but did not seem anti-Muslim.
Less than two weeks later, a 14-minute trailer for the movie -- now called "Innocence of Muslims" -- was posted on YouTube by a user identifying himself as Sam Bacile. The scenes in the trailer portrayed the prophet Muhammad as a buffoon, suicidal, gay, lascivious and condoning of pedophilia.
"Every non-Muslim is an infidel. Their lands, their women, their children, are our spoils," Muhammad says in one scene. Characters refer to him as a "bastard" and in one scene, a veiled woman asks Muhammad to "put your head between my thighs."
A crew member told the Los Angeles Times the cast and crew were told the film was to be a war drama called "Desert Warrior." In his email interview with the Times, the crew member, who asked not to be identified, said the dialogue in the trailer that makes specific attacks against Islam was re-recorded after the actors left the set.
"The original actors said one word, and then the producer and editing team (whom I don't know) dubbed," he wrote. "It's unmistakable that most dubbed portions are a different voice than the original actor."
A statement released on behalf of the cast and crew deplored the movie and the deaths of the four Americans in Libya. It said those involved were duped.
"We are 100 percent not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose. ... We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred," the statement read.
The trailer posted in July appears to have attracted little notice. But last week, a second version of the trailer was posted -- this time in Arabic. Morris Sadek, an Egyptian-American Christian activist who has been a virulent critic of Islam, began promoting the trailer on his Facebook page, saying that it revealed the "truth" about Muhammad's life.
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