A man poses with a rifle as a building and a car are engulfed in flames inside the US consulate in Benghazi. (AFP)
Los Angeles, Sept. 12 (AP): An Israeli filmmaker based in California went into hiding after his movie attacking prophet Mohammad sparked angry assaults on US missions in Egypt and Libya, where one American was killed.
Speaking by phone from an undisclosed location yesterday, writer and director Sam Bacile remained defiant, saying that the 56-year-old intended his film to be a provocative political statement.
“This is a political movie,” said Bacile. “The US lost a lot of money and a lot of people in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’re fighting with ideas.”
Bacile, a California real estate developer who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew, said he believes the movie will help his native land by exposing Islam’s flaws to the world.
“Islam is a cancer, period,” he said repeatedly.
The two-hour movie, Innocence of Muslims, cost $5 million to make and was financed with the help of more than 100 Jewish donors, said Bacile, who wrote and directed it.
An English-language 13-minute trailer on YouTube shows an amateur cast performing a wooden dialogue of insults disguised as revelations about Mohammad, whose obedient followers are presented as a cadre of goons.
Though Bacile was apologetic about the American who was killed as a result of the outrage over his film, he blamed lax embassy security and the perpetrators of the violence. “I feel the security system (at the embassies) is no good,” said Bacile. “America should do something to change it.”
A consultant on the film, Steve Klein, said the filmmaker is concerned for family members who live in Egypt. Bacile declined to confirm.
Klein said he vowed to help Bacile make the movie but warned him that “you’re going to be the next Theo van Gogh”. Van Gogh was a Dutch filmmaker killed by a Muslim extremist in 2004 after making a film that was perceived as insulting to Islam. “We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen,” Klein said.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with Pastor Terry Jones by phone today and asked him to withdraw his support for the film. “In the brief call, Gen. Dempsey expressed his concerns over the nature of the film and the tensions it will inflame,” Dempsey’s spokesman, Col Dave Lapan, told Reuters.
Bacile’s film was dubbed into Egyptian Arabic by someone he does not know, but he speaks enough Arabic to confirm that the translation is accurate. It was made in three months in the summer of 2011, with 59 actors and about 45 people behind the camera.
The full film has been shown once, to a mostly empty theatre in Hollywood earlier this year, said Bacile.
The Israeli government moved quickly to distance Israel from Bacile.
Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, said in a telephoned statement that “nobody knows who he is. He is totally unknown in filmmaking circles in Israel. And anything he did — he is not doing it for Israel, or with Israel, or through Israel in any way”. Palmor also called Bacile “a complete loose cannon and an unspeakable idiot”.
An Egyptian Christian who promoted Bacile’s film today said he was sorry that US diplomats were killed and said Muslims who objected should do so peacefully.
Morris Sadek, speaking by phone from the US where he lives, also told Reuters that his objective in backing the film was to highlight discrimination against Christians who make up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s 83 million people.
Asked if he felt sorry about the deaths, Sadek said: “Of course, of course, of course. Thought should be answered by thought,” adding that he did not consider the film as offensive to Islam. Protesters in Egypt chanted Sadek’s name because of his support for the film.