Clearly no one is innocent of anything in the blowout that has flowed from the YouTube posting of the low-budget, anti-Islamic film trailer, The Innocence of Muslims. The filmmakers have been accused of diffusing hatred and bigotry. Those who rioted in the Middle East have been accused of violence and absurdity. Even the Muslim American community has been declared “silent” in the wake of these protests.
In keeping with the theme of a lack of innocence, now one of the actresses in the film has come forth to claim her inculpability. Cindy Lee Garcia is suing the filmmaker for both slander and fraud. She is also pushing Google and YouTube to take the trailer down.
According to the suit, which was filed on Wednesday in Los Angeles, California, Garcia has been receiving death threats. Through the suit Garcia claims to have been misled by the filmmaker who she thought was directing a “historical Arabian Desert adventure film,” but instead dubbed over her voice with the anti-Muslim content.
The court denied her request for lack of evidence. Many questions arise about the relationship between those who participate in such projects and the control over the final product. Should Garcia have been privy to all the information regarding the film and its message? Or should she have to tolerate the final outcome because she relinquished control when she signed on in the first place?
This situation is reminiscent of The Third Jihad scandal that shook the NYPD earlier this year. That film, a radical anti-Muslim movie, was used to train almost 1,500 officers during counter-terrorism training in 2010. When news that such a culturally insensitive film was being used to train policemen on how to deal with other communities, the organization and its commissioner Ray Kelly tried to distance themselves from it, claiming they had no idea it would be so offensive.
Later, it was revealed that Kelly himself had engaged the filmmakers through an interview with the director, Erik Werth, in 2007. This piece of news reached the public only after the film’s producer, Raphael Shore, had emailed the New York Times about the interview. As the scandal burgeoned into cries for Kelly’s resignation, he simply said, “he should not have agreed to the interview five years ago.” If the head of the NYPD had been “duped” into participating in such an inflammatory film, is it too much to expect Garcia to have been more careful when taking the job?
It’s a tough job market and everyone wants to get a hand on whatever work comes their way. We can’t judge how much information Garcia was given about the project until she reveals the agreement she had with the filmmakers. But assuming she was misinformed about the film’s true intentions, then she was within her right to take her grievances to the courts. Of course not any given participant in a project will know all there is to know about it. Yet, with the trend of small-minded films that are popping up these days, we need to be more big-minded about our approach to them.
From actors to police commissioners, it’s time to really be cognizant of the direction a project is heading. Each one of us has the duty to do our homework because in this digital age of speed and negligence, claiming innocence in the end may come too late.