By now most of us have heard about this film Innocence of Muslims, which has sparked riots claiming the lives of several people, one of whom was no less than the U.S. ambassador to Libya. The cruel punch line to all of this — because it’s already common knowledge that Islamists are psychopaths who will riot to anything at the drop of the proverbial hat — is that there may, in fact, be no film at all. Some in the media are beginning to be a little skeptical, too.
Sure, there’s a “trailer,” which you may have seen. Here it is.
If your first thought was that this is some shoddy attempt at a comedy sketch shot for less than what you paid for lunch today, then you’d be surprised as I was to hear the claims that this is allegedly an excerpt from a $5 million full-length feature made by a self-described “Israeli-American real estate developer in California” named Sam Bacile. Bacile claims to have raised his very-impressive-for-an-indie budget from “about 100 Jewish donors,” and shot the project last year with dozens of actors and crew. I call bullshit.
Folks, I’ve worked on a number of feature films. Sure, budget doesn’t guarantee talent. But a $5 million budget will most certainly get you an experienced AD (assistant director), DP (director of photography), grip/electric crew, sound engineers and mixers, and proper post facilities to ensure that whatever inexperience your director has will at least be compensated by technical proficiency from your department heads and their respective crews. I’ve worked on low-six-figure budgeted films that had all those things, and if nothing else, looked like films at the end of the day. Five mil also means that you meet the Screen Actors Guild requirements for their Basic Agreement, which puts you well above their Ultra Low Budget, Modified Low Budget, and Low Budget Agreement categories. You could get name talent for this. Yet no one at any agency has heard of Innocence of Muslims. It has no IMDB listing. Steven Soderbergh’s box office hit Magic Mike, which starred at least one A-lister and another one on his way if not already there, cost $7 million.
Sure, there’s nothing preventing someone who manages, by ridiculous good luck and some fundraising savvy, to raise the money Bacile claims he raised from being a raging incompetent who still thinks all he has to do to make a movie is buy a 720p camcorder from Wal-Mart, advertise for free actors on Craigslist, and rent some costumes from the local community college drama department. But you should at least have enough sense to get your green-screen work done by someone who knows his business (you can, after all, afford it), which would most likely include telling you that there was simply no sense in badly green-screening your actors against a desert backdrop when, for the money, you could totally do location work in fucking Morocco.
In short, I don’t think there’s a real movie. I think we’re looking at some especially mean-spirited and vicious trolling of Muslims, not coincidentally timed for the 9/11 anniversary. None of this excuses the lunatic rioting or the murders the rioters have caused. But it does make it all the more tragic that there have been more murders committed in the name of religion, and this time, they may have been provoked by nothing more than a lousy internet prank.
Trade journal The Hollywood Reporter also chimes in.
Though Bacile claims he spent $5 million on the movie — a figure that would put the film’s budget on par with the Toronto International Film Festival entrant and Julianne Moore-starrer What Maisie Knew — the 13 minutes of footage available online look unprofessional. Furthermore, Bacile has virtually no footprint in the Hollywood community. The writer-director-producer has no agent listed on IMDBPro and no credits on any film or TV production.
More strangeness is coming to light. This “Sam Becile” guy appears to have been conning everyone he crossed paths with. There was a cast and crew who worked a shoot, but they were, by their unanimous account, deceived into thinking they were working on something else entirely. Gawker dug up what looks like the original crew/casting call. Just weird.
Law enforcement is now reporting “Sam Bacile” has been identified as one Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a right sleazebag with a rap sheet including federal bank fraud and meth manufacture.