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'Duped into making blasphemous film'

REUTERS

LOS ANGELES: The origins of a crudely made anti-Muslim movie that sparked violent protests in Egypt and Libya have begun to emerge slowly, with an actress in the California production saying she was duped and was unaware it was about the Prophet Mohammad.

Cindy Lee Garcia of Bakersfield, California, who appears briefly in clips of the film posted online, said she answered a casting call last year to appear in a movie titled “Desert Warrior.”

“It looks so unreal to me, it’s like nothing that we even filmed was there. There was all this weird stuff there,” Garcia told Reuters in a phone interview. Clips of the movie, posted on YouTube under several titles including “Innocence of Muslims,” portrayed the Muslim prophet engaged in crude and offensive behaviour. Garcia said the film was shot in the summer of 2011 inside a church near Los Angeles, with actors standing in front of a “green screen,” used to depict background images. About 50 actors were involved, she said. An expired casting notice at Backstage.com listed a film named “Desert Warrior” that it described as a low-budget “historical Arabian Desert adventure film.” None of the characters were identified in the casting call as Mohammad.

“They told me it was based on what it was like 2,000 years ago at the time of the Lord,” Garcia said. “Like the time Christ was here.”

The largely obscure English-language film’s low production values were evident in its stilted dialogue and wooden acting. Garcia, who appeared in online clips from the film, said her character was forced to give away her child to a character named “Master George” in one scene. The casting call describes a character named George as a “strong leader” and a “tyrant.”

But in a 13-minute trailer posted at YouTube.com, Garcia’s character appears to be dubbed over in that scene, with a voice-over for her character referring to Mohammad instead of George.

Garcia said she remembered the film’s producer as a man named Sam Bassil, an older man with graying hair and an accent. She said he paid her with a cheque. She called him on Wednesday after the protests.

“I asked him why did he do that and put me in a bad position to where all these people get killed for a movie I was in?” Garcia said, adding that the man she knew as Bassil told her it was not her fault.

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