If you find yourself with fifteen minutes to kill this evening, you can go to YouTube and pull up the video that is currently causing murder and mayhem and destruction in the Middle East this evening. No, it isn’t Gangnam Style. It’s that strange new cinematic sensation, Innocence of Muslims.
I’m not going to put up the link, for a number of reasons that are obvious at least to me. I’m also going to steer clear of any type of free speech arguments, and the ethics of propaganda filmmaking in the 21st century made for the sole purpose of getting under the skin of already touchy Muslims. In terms of quality, The Innocence of Muslims falls far below the mark set by Theo van Gogh with Submission, the intentionally provacative short film which ultimately led to Van Gogh’s decapitation.
In terms of sheer quality, the film also falls well below the watermarks set by The Room, Problem Child 2, and The Happening. To put it bluntly, The Innocence of Muslims may set the mark for the worst moving picture feature ever recorded. It is an impassably dumb, blunt, vile turd of a flick before you ever take a moment to frame it within the context of world events. You will never make it to the end of it.
As of this moment, there is a manhunt on for those responsible for The Innocence of Muslims. Well, probably a couple of them. I’d have to assume at this point that a fatwa has been placed upon the head of credited filmmaker Sam Bacile. Kinda goes with the territory when you depict Mohammed as a deviant. Or as anything, really. Additionally, the FBI is taking an active interest in tracking down the “masterminds” behind this filmic atrocity, according to Deadline.
There are, at the moment, a number a questions about the true identity of Sam Bacile. The feds are looking to track down a couple of different people in connection with the “project.” One of them is Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih, according to the Deadline piece, the head of a charity entitled Media for Christ which obtained the permits for the Innocence shoot in early 2011. The other is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who did some time in 1997 for cooking meth, followed by a 21-month bid in 2010 on bank fraud charges. Both men are Egyptians, and both are apparently in hiding. Probably for the long haul.
If you take the nonrefundable time to watch The Innocence of Muslims, you will immediately sense the distinctive footprint of dumb people at work. And if nothing else, you can look upon this whole sad episode as an opportunity to test your ability to judge the character of persons you will never meet. If you guessed “dumb,” then you get a big shiny gold happy star pinned to your plaid pants. How do I know this?
I worked for five years in the telemarketing industry in Southern California, and because of that sad fact, I have a keen insight into the type of mind that is behind The Innocence of Muslims.
At the turn of the 21st century, telemarketing served as a refuge for the type of creative forces that ends up either churning out a festering boil like Innocence of Muslims, as well as a large contingent of recovering drug addicts. It was an industry saturated with filmmakers without scripts, screenwriters with concepts but no dialogue chops, fashion designers with no taste, fringe actors, recording artists without record labels, record producers without recording artists, still more record producers with recording artists and labels but no distribution. All of them were convinced that they were at a weigh station on the way to Somewhere, and Somewhere was inevitably the parking lot with a newspaper and a smoky glass pipe. Even then, I recognized that for these lost souls, telemarketing was indeed a crossroads. From there, they could go straight down the road of more and more telemarketing, or they could make a turn. In one direction was a life on the wispy outskirts of the pornography business. Until recent events, I never knew what lay down that other road.
Ill-conceived, tweak-fueled, propaganda filmmaking.
My prediction, based solely on product: Whoever Sam Bacile turns out to be, he will not be a filmmaker. He will be a jerk-off, the type of person to whom you can disseminate any piece of basic information, and then make a drinking game out of guessing the manner in which he will misinterpret it. He will have no connections to anything of substance, and even as that becomes obvious, the world will still wear itself out debating either his right to live or his right to make reprehensibly bad art.
He may spark riots and provoke the discussion of artists’ moral obligations, but he will never be bright enough to take part in that discussion himself. He is a nothing, a nobody, and he’s probably getting off on all of this.
+Josh Converse work has appeared in Crime Factory, Plots with Guns, Black Heart Magazine, Out Of the Gutter, and A Twist of Noir. He is the only person to have ever simultaneously held the WBO and WBC middleweight and welterweight titles without any witnesses. Josh can talk his way out of any situation, particularly when on the cusp of runaway success. In 2010, he was the recipient of Nick Tosches’ final apology. He lives and works and eats cereal in Chicago.