As if the background story of the controversial anti-Islam film, Innocence of Muslims, weren't bizarre and confusing enough, matters have gotten even murkier as press outlets continue to uncover more pseudonyms associated with those involved with the film. The movie has sparked outrage across the Middle East and North Africa, including a deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed the Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. So far, reporters have been unable to uncover true identity of the person who made the film. In an age where galaxies of information are available at the stoke of a few keys, the continued inability of armies of journalists to track down the maker of an embarrassingly low budget film shot in southern California is truly amazing.
At first, the AP and Wall Street Journal reported that the maker of the movie was Sam Bacile, a California-based real estate developer and self-described "Israeli Jew." But the more the press looked into Bacile's identity, the clearer it became that "Sam Bacile" was a fake name. PolicyMic uncovered a Facebook account supposedly belonging to a "Sam Bassel," on which the account holder claimed to be a filmmaker based in California. One of the Facebook friends of "Bassel" was supposedly Abba Seraphim El-Suriani, Head of the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. (The identity behind El-Suriani's account could not be confirmed.) This would lend creedence to very early reports that the film had been made by Egyptian Coptic Christians in the U.S.
The Facebook page of "Sam Bassel" was taken down shortly after PolicyMic reached out to "Bassel" and multiple Facebook friends of "Bassel" inquiring as to a possible connection. PolicyMic's inquiries went unanswered.
It turns out that "Sam Bacile" is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Egyptian-American Coptic Christian with legal history that includes a 1997 conviction for intent to manufacture methamphetamine, for which he served one year in prison. After being released, he violated his probation, and served another year. In 2010, Nakoula was charged with bank fraud, sentenced to 21 months in prison, and ordered to pay $790,000.
In addition, Vice is reporting that the director of Innocence of Muslims may be Alan Roberts, but that this also is a pseudonym -- for a Robert Brownell. Vice says it was anonymously given documents pertaining to the film:
"The documents clearly state that in 2009 and 2011 Robert Brownell purchased pre-production services related to Desert Warrior, which has been widely reported as the working title of the film that the world now knows as Innocence of Muslims.
"The documents also include Robert Brownell’s address in Tarzana, California (or at least his address when the purchases were made in 2009; the property is now up for sale), phone number, and 'contact information," which lists yet a different name -- Alan Roberts."
"Alan Roberts" may be the same Alan Roberts listed on IMDb, which credits him with having directed several films, including pornographic films. Director credits for Alan Roberts include, The Sexpert (1972), The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood (1980), and Young Lady Chatterley II (1985).
The casting notice for Innocence of Muslims gives no clues as to the highly charged content of the production. One of those given a part was gay porn actor, Tim Dax, who says he had no idea the film was anti-Islam, even during shooting. He told Joe.My.God. via email:
"i can tell you i auditioned for a movie called Desert Storm that was about Ancient Warriors. My character was called Sampson on the paper with a few lines I got each day upon arriving on set. We never saw a full script or any lines after the day we shot them. Many questions were asked regarding absurdity of lines and situations. Sam the producer who I believed to be, but not certain as Egyptian. His reply would always to work with what we were given as he wrote the script. The clip that I saw part of today for the first time is questionable as to being my voice. The voice over work is dubious at best. a week and a half of work, 75 bucks a day & lunch. ; ) Can't tell you anymore than that other than I'm am very much NOT anti muslim. one world one love. Tim."
While there is much uncertainty surrounding this story, one thing is clear: the more we know about it, the weirder it gets.