In late June, an audience of 10 people attended the premiere of a movie entitled “The Innocence of Bin Laden” at a small theater in Hollywood, California. The questionable title of the film drew minor attention from the Anti-Defamation League and Current TV, but nothing more was made of it and the film seemed destined to fade into obscurity.
Fast forward to today, and we all know what has transpired over the past two weeks due to this controversial film. Now called “Innocence of Muslims”, it was dubbed into Arabic and its trailer was put on YouTube. Its insulting portrayals of Mohammed and Islam sparked massive, violent protests by Muslims throughout the Middle East. American embassies all over the region came under attack and four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in Libya as a result of the riots.
The film’s creator, using the alias “sambacile”, was later found to be Nakuola Basseley Nakuola, an Egyptian Coptic Christian living in California. Nakuola has an extensive criminal record, from manufacturing crystal meth in the 90s to recently serving 21 months in prison after being convicted of bank fraud back in 2010. After receiving countless death threats, he is currently in hiding and under the protection of the FBI.
In addition, the film’s actors and crew released a statement condemning the film, claiming that they were misled during filming. They were allegedly told that the film was to be called “Desert Warrior” and that their voices were dubbed over to include references to Islam post-production. Judging from the trailer, this indeed looks to be the case.
So, taking the film out of its current context, I am going to do a straight-up movie review. Unfortunately, only the 15 minute trailer is up, and the full movie has never been publicly released. And, after watching the trailer, which is essentially several scenes from the flick, “Innocence of Muslims” is utterly horrendous. I can safely make the assumption that if the full movie were to be released, it would rank amongst the likes of “Battlefield Earth”, “Plan 9 From Outer Space”, and “The Room” as one of the worst films ever made.
The first scene from the trailer is set in the present day, where a Muslim constable is bragging to a Christian doctor about the many wives of Mohammed. We then cut to the doctor warning his daughter to close down his office and head home because an angry mob, wielding such dangerous weapons like a plastic He-Man axe, is coming for them. The police arrive but stand back to let the mob wreak havoc.
The doctor arrives safely home with his family, and proceeds to go on a rant, heavily dubbed to include references to Islam. The doctor writes on a whiteboard “Man +x=BT” while saying “Man+x=Islamic Terrorist”, a poor and careless mistake by the filmmakers and an obvious sign that the film was tampered with post-production.
With the doctor’s fate up in the air, never to be heard from again, we then go back in time for a revisionist history of the life of the Prophet Mohammed and the founding of Islam. Except that the actors and actresses don’t know this, of course. Any mention of Mohammed, Islam, the Quran, etc. is clearly said in a different microphone and in a different voice, with the lips and the words not matching up.
Even without the dubs, the acting is piss-poor, and the plot extremely incoherent. One scene, which has absolutely no bearing on the rest of the movie, shows Mohammed talking to a donkey, asking him his name and whether he likes women or men. The donkey just neighs in response and Mohammed seems to understand him, making me wonder if he is in fact the Saudi Arabian version of Eliza Thornberry.
The dialogue is laughably horrendous. One scene featuring Mohammed and two of his followers has three consecutive lines of dialogue as follows:
Mohammed: “And the inspiration has disappeared.”
Mohammed Follower 1: “Wardica is dead. And the inspiration has disappeared.”
Mohammed Follower 2: “I don’t understand! What is the relationship between Wardica’s death, and the inspiration?”
While essentially the same thing is being said in three different ways, the scene is being dramatically over-acted, which makes it unintentionally funny. And it is unclear about what the inspiration even is to begin with, let alone who Wardica is.
In another scene, a woman and her husband are discussing whether or not to marry off their daughter to Mohammed. The woman asks her husband if Mohammed is a child molester, and mentions that Mohammed is 55 years old. The husband corrects her, stating that Mohammed is 53, not 55. This line of dialogue is totally ripped off from the beginning scene of Super Troopers (jump to 5:15).
The scenery and background are all set on a green screen, with terrible effects. The characters seem to be floating above the ground, and Mohammed in one scene looks like he is walking through a tent's wall.
Character arcs and development is abysmal, with the characters extremely one-dimensional. Bilal, one of Mohammed’s followers, looks like he was plucked out of Wrestlemania and another follower, Omar, is a sadist. In one instance, he is torturing a 120 year old woman who claims that in all her young life, has never seen “such a murderous thug as Mohammed” (just as an aside, even with modern medicine and nutrition, living to be 120 is a crapshoot, let alone in Saudi Arabia during the 7th century).
Overall, the combination of essentially no plot, unresolved story arcs, ludicrous dialogue, atrocious acting, terrible dubbing, and horrific green screen effects and backgrounds make “Innocence of Muslims” an affront to cinema and humanity, and I only saw 15 minutes of it. A fifth grader with a single handheld camera could make a film of greater merit than this. The post-production editing is the real killer, because they made a different movie as a result of the dubbing. Even though I feel terrible for the actors and actresses that were tricked into making this film, it is safe to say that they won’t be picked up by a Hollywood studio anytime soon.
If anything, this movie goes to show the power of the Internet. All it took was one person to translate it into Arabic and all hell broke loose.