‘Innocence Of Muslims’ Shot On Hollywood Set, Film Permit Connected To Christian Charity
The Huffington Post -Staff
Details are being sought regarding the anti-Muslim film “The Innocence of Muslims,” which has enraged radical Islamists and provoked protests across the Middle East. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in movie-related attacks in Libya on Tuesday and protests continued through the week.
The movie was filmed on a Hollywood set, and its permit has been linked to a Christian charity.
“The Innocence of Muslims” was partially filmed on a set built for the CBS TV show “JAG” by Paramount’s TV unit, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Portions of the low-budget film were shot in Santa Clarita, Calif., on an area of the Blue Cloud Film Ranch called “Baghdad Square.” This set has been used by TV and movie productions — including “Iron Man,” “Arrested Development” and “CSI” — to recreate Middle Eastern war zones.
THR reports that Paramount said there is no way to verify whether the studio built the set. However,
The permit for “The Innocence of Muslims,” which was filmed in Los Angeles County in August 2011 under the title “Desert Warriors,” has been pulled from public view by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department over safety concerns, TheWrap reported.
Media for Christ, a Duarte, Calif.-based Christian nonprofit group, applied for the film permit, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported. The charity’s misson statement is to “glow Jesus’ light” to the world.
Though Joseph Nassralla, the president of Media for Christ, emerged as a force behind the anti-Muslim film, the organization said it had nothing to do with the project and was upset by its content, according to the L.A. Times. Nassralla has reportedly devoted himself to criticizing Islam in speeches and interviews during recent years.
FilmL.A. Inc. confirmed that “The Innocence of Muslims” was shot in the California county last August, but that the studio did not know the details of the film.
“By law, the content of film projects need not be disclosed in order to apply for or receive a film permit from FilmL.A. Neither FilmL.A. nor its government partners had any foreknowledge of this project’s content, and the release of a film permit can in no way be construed as endorsement or approval of this film,” read a statement from President Paul Audley obtained by the L.A. Times.
Although Sam Bacile (sometimes referred to as Sam Bossil) posted the YouTube video and was thought to be the director, it was later determined that this was just an alias. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, was identified as the man behind “The Innocence of Muslims,” The AP reported Thursday:
Nakoula denied he directed the film and said he knew the self-described filmmaker, Sam Bacile. But the cell phone number that AP contacted Tuesday to reach the filmmaker who identified himself as Sam Bacile traced to the same address near Los Angeles where AP found Nakoula. Federal court papers said Nakoula’s aliases included Nicola Bacily, Erwin Salameh and others.
Nakoula is a Coptic Christian from Cerritos, according to the L.A. Times.
He has also been convicted of financial crimes, according to The AP. In 2010, he pleaded no contest to federal bank fraud charges, after setting up fraudulent accounts with stolen identities and Social Security numbers, in California and was ordered to pay $790,000 in restitution. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison and banned from using computers or the Internet for five years without permission from a probation officer.
Steven Klein, an anti-Islam activist and Vietnam War veteran, acted as a consultant on the film. Klein also has a weekly show on Media for Christ’s satellite network, The Way TV, the L.A. Times reported.
The “Innocence of Muslims” director duped the 80 cast and crews members involved in the film, according to CNN. They said they were “grossly misled” about the film’s intent and purpose.
“The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer,” they said in a statement to CNN. “We are 100% not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose. 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.”
“The Innocence of Muslims,” clips of which were posted on YouTube in English and Arabic, negatively portrays the prophet Muhammad as a sex-obsessed individual who engages in relations with young people and commits acts of sadistic violence.
It looks like the Associated Press has solved the mystery of who was behind the anti-Islam film believed to have sparked this week’s violent protests at U.S. missions in Egypt, Libya, and throughout the Middle East.
That man is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Coptic Christian with a criminal past who lives in California, according to the news wire’s digging, which has been backed up by a federal law enforcement official.
In an interview with the AP, Nakoula admitted to providing logistical support for the production of Innocence of Muslims but denied being “Sam Bacile,” the name given as the film’s maker. But the evidence cobbled together by AP reporters Gillian Flaccus and Stephen Braun suggests otherwise.
The AP was one of a handful of media outlets to publish an interview early Wednesday with a man who claimed to be Bacile. Reporters traced the cellphone number used during that interview to Nakoula’s address and, once there, noticed that Nakoula covered up his middle name of “Basseley” with his thumb when displaying his driver’s license.
A little more digging on the part of Flaccus and Braun led to the discovery that Nakoula pleaded no contest in 2010 to bank fraud charges, had used numerous aliases in the past, and had a number of connections to the Bacile persona. An unnamed U.S. law enforcement official later confirmed to the AP that they had the right man.
Religion Dispatch‘s Sarah Posner appears to have been the first reporter to raise doubts about Bacile on Wednesday, noting that the man who spoke with the media gave conflicting details about himself.
Over the course of the day, those doubts grew, with reporters noting that despite a claim that the film cost $5 million—which “Bacile” claimed to have raised from 100 Israeli donors—it had comically poor production value.
A 13-minute trailer for the film portrays Mohammed as a pedophile-appeasing, bumbling spreader of false doctrine. Notably, as On the Media spotted, all of the more controversial lines in the trailer were dubbed in later, apparently to keep the film’s actors and crew from knowing what they were working on.
Nakoula apparently went to Terry Jones, the Florida-based, Quran-burning pastor, a few weeks ago for help promoting the film. In an interview with the Daily Beast, Jones admitted that the film’s negative portrayal of the Mohammed could cause violence, but he said he does not regret exercising free speech.