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 order to not use 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.