Details -- however minimal -- have begun to surface about the amateur filmmaker whose movie ridiculing the Islamic prophet Muhammad sparked deadly protests in Egypt and Libya.
Four Americans have been killed in the demonstrations, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya. In Cairo, protesters climbed the walls of the U.S. Embassy compound and tore down the American flag. "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger," they chanted.
All this over a few movie clips that look like they were produced by a group of high schoolers in a Video 101 class. Reminiscent of low-budget, unfunny comedy sketches, the clips -- supposedly from a movie called "Innocence of Muslims" -- depict Muhammad as a freewheeling, womanizing shyster who promoted child abuse. It sparked violent protests on Tuesday after clips of the film surfaced on YouTube, some of which were later dubbed in Arabic.
Believe it or not - The Anti-Islam Film (screengrab)
But so far only scant details are known about the movie’s shadowy writer/director who calls himself Sam Bacile. The only interviews with him have been done by phone, and what little information he has revealed raises more than a few red flags.
So is there a Sam Bacile, and does "Innocence of Muslims" even exist?
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Bacile identified himself as an Israeli-American real estate developer based in California. But Internet searches reveal no trace of a real estate developer doing business under that name. His age is in question as well. The Wall Street Journal said he was 52 while AP reported his age at 56.
Bacile has reportedly gone into hiding following the protests. Speaking by phone to the Times of Israel, he said he was not anticipating the violent reaction provoked by the film. "I feel sorry for the embassy. I am mad," he said.
But according to Steve Klein, who claims to have worked as a consultant on the film, Bacile knew it would ignite violence. Speaking to the Associated Press on Wednesday, Klein claimed to be reluctant to help Bacile with the movie, telling him, "You’re going to be the next Theo van Gogh." The comment was a reference to the Dutch filmmaker who in 2004 was gunned down by an Islamic extremist after he made a movie that criticized Muslim societies’ treatment of women.
In fact, Klein himself is a shadowy figure. He apparently authored a self-published book on Islam (with a poorly designed cover), but aside from that, he has not left many tracks. In a phone interview with the Atlantic on Wednesday, Klein said he believes Bacile is not Israeli and, most likely, not Jewish. He also said that Bacile was a pseudonym and that he did not know his real name.
Update: According to the Times of Israel, officials for that country confirmed that they have no record of Israeli citizenship for a Sam Bacile.
Bacile claims to have made "Innocence of Muslims" on a budget of $5 million with the help of 100 Jewish donors, but one look at the film clips on YouTube will call that claim into question. The movie appears to have been shot using a consumer-grade DV camcorder with amateur actors, fake backgrounds and cheap sets. The lighting and sound are of equally low quality. In Hollywood dollars, $5 million may be considered low-budget, but if the filmmaker really spent that much money on this shoddy work, it’s his donors who should be doing the protesting.
Meanwhile, efforts to uncover the film’s anonymous funders have so far turned up nothing. Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for the Atlantic, tweeted on Wednesday: "I would love to know more about Mr. Sam Bacile, whom no Jew I know has ever heard, and his 100 mysterious backers."
That’s assuming there even is a film. In early July, two 13-minute clips were posted on a YouTube account by someone with the username Sam Bacile, but no one has come forward claiming to have seen the finished product. Moreover, IMDb lists nothing for the project or Bacile himself, to say nothing of the supposed 59 actors and 45 crew members who worked on it.
Aldo Moro mystery: Italian prosecutors revisit former PM’s 1978 murder 2013 06 17 It was arguably the darkest episode of Italy’s postwar history: the kidnapping of former prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978 and the discovery of his corpse 55 days later in the boot of a Renault 4 in central Rome.
Despite four trials, numerous investigations and the passage of 35 years, the affair continues to raise questions among Italians, with many sharing ...
Mysterious Subatomic Particle May Represent Exotic New Form of Matter 2013 06 17 In the course of exploring the properties of a strange subatomic particle, physicists may have stumbled upon something even stranger: a mysterious and exotic new form of matter.
The intriguing discovery was made more or less simultaneously by two collaborations: the Belle experiment at the Japanese High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) and BESIII experiment run by the Institute of High ...
Over 200 Million People Are in the US Facial Recognition Database 2013 06 17 You are probably participating in the facial recognition database whether you want to or not. Most likely, your visage is there to be easily identified, without your consent, even if you’ve never committed a crime.
Using the vague criteria of “law enforcement purposes”, the United States has more than 200 million Americans filed away in various facial recognition databases. If ...
Russia says it will not allow Syria no-fly zones 2013 06 17
Russia, a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, will not permit no-fly zones to be imposed over Syria, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Monday.
"I think we fundamentally will not allow this scenario," Lukashevich told a news briefing, adding that calls for a no-fly zone showed disrespect for international law.
Lukashevich spoke before planned talks between President Vladimir ...
Darpa Robotics Challenge: the search for the perfect robot soldier 2013 06 17 The US military’s $2bn robot beauty pageant is all part of its plan to maintain its technological superiority
The Atlas robot looks something out of the post-apocalyptic future, or maybe a Will Smith blockbuster. It’s a 330lb cyborg with eerily human-like hands and a head equipped with a laser. It lunges forward with a grim, deliberate clatter on curved slices of ...