Details casting doubt on the authenticity of the controversial film Innocence of Muslims, which sparked protests in Cairo and spurred the Libya attack that killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, mounted on Wednesday. A series of facts brought to light by online media such as Gawker, Buzzfeed and blogs on CNN, The Atlantic, and The Christian Science Monitor paint the picture of a possible hoax.
In the film's 14-minute trailer (below), which set off the crisis after it was posted to YouTube, the name Muhammad and anti-Islam remarks are clearly dubbed over the original words, clashing with the film's visual cues. The sloppy editing calls into question whether the Hollywood film was, in fact, really created as an anti-Muslim screed, or simply edited to look that way. Despite an alleged $5 million budget, the production quality of the film is very low.
Those involved in making the film, originally entitled Desert Warrior instead of Innocence of Muslims, denied that the film was meant to have anything to do with Islam, saying they were unaware of any such intentions during the film's production. According to CNN, a statement released by the film's 80-strong cast and crew said they were "grossly misled about its intent and purpose," and were "shocked by the drastic re-writes of the script and lies that were told to all involved."
One of the film's actresses, Cindy Lee Garcia, told Gawker that, as far as she knew, the film was going to be "based on how things were 2,000 years ago," a time period that predates Islam by some 600 years.
"It wasn't based on anything to do with religion, it was just on how things were run in Egypt. There wasn't anything about Muhammed or Muslims or anything," Garcia told Gawker. According to Garcia, the character portrayed as Muhammed was called "Master George" in the script.
Then comes the identity of the allegedly Jewish, Israeli-born director/scriptwriter, Sam Bacile.
As The Jerusalem Post reported, a high-ranking Israeli official in Los Angeles said that after numerous inquiries, it appeared that no one in the Hollywood film industry or in the local Israeli community had ever heard of him.
Steve Klein, a "a self-described militant Christian activist in Riverside, California" who was involved with the film, told The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg that Bacile was not the director's real name, and that he was not Israeli and probably not Jewish either. "I would suspect this is a disinformation campaign," Klein said.
The mounting evidence seems to suggest that the trailer was either a poorly-edited, wild rewrite of the film's original script or a flat out hoax, though no evidence has yet emerged confirming the possibility.