Monday, September 17, 2012

A First-Hand Account of the Filming of "Muhammad"

It turns out that a key actress in the "Muhammad" film is an acquaintance with the British author Neil Gaiman. She wrote to Gaiman for advice on how to handle the situation. Here is their account:
 A few years ago, a message came in to this website on the FAQ line from a young actress from Georgia (the one from the former USSR, not the State with Atlanta in it) called Anna Gurji. She sent a link to her webpage and to films she had made in Georgia, and told me she was a fan, and if she ever came to the US, she would want to be in something of mine. 

She made it to the US, and although she has never been in something of mine, she read the female lead (with Wil Wheaton as the male lead) in the first read-through of Michael Reaves' film BLOOD KISS. I was not there as a writer. I was there because I will actually act in it, playing a Hollywood director with a dark secret. So I've acted with Anna and spent time with her. She's a good sort.

She wrote to me the other day, worried.

She said, 
Something very bad happened. I desperately need everyone's help right now.

I don't know how to start writing this letter. It's crazy, the world is.. life.. I'm so shattered right now, I don't know.. I feel very dead inside. 

Last summer I auditioned for an indie low budget feature movie and I landed a supporting role. The movie was about a comet falling into a desert and ancient tribes fighting over it for they thought that the comet had some magical powers.

A year later, the movie was dubbed (without the actors' permission), the lines were changed drastically and the movie was morphed into an Anti-Islam film. Even the names of the characters were changed. And the character I had scenes with GEORGE became MUHAMMAD. 

I really need your advice right now? How can I have my voice shown to the world so that I can tell them the real story.

All these media people that keep calling me are using my real story and then chopping or manipulating the interview the way they want to. 

I don't know what to do. It's very scary, Neil.
I told her to write her story for me, to say what she wanted, and I would put it up here for her, as she wrote it, to get her message to the world. The best weapon against lies is the truth, after all.

So here's what Anna knows about the truth:
Everyone who wishes to find out the truth about the movie now known as theInnocence of Muslims, please read the letter below. I, Anna Gurji, as one of the supporting actresses in the film will share with you what really happened.
A year ago, in the summer of 2011, I submitted my materials to various projects on the Explore Talent web-site. I received a call from the casting director of the movie “Desert Warrior”, and my audition date was scheduled. I auditioned for the role of Hilary. Several days later, I was informed that I got a callback. I did the callback. Several days later, I was informed that I landed the role of Hilary in the movie called “Desert Warrior”.
The filming of the movie was done in August of 2011. We were filming the movie in a studio warehouse with a green screen in Duarte, CA. The project was a low budget, independent feature movie.
The filming of the movie was beginning soon after the day I was told I got a role. The script was not sent to me. When I got to the set, I was merely provided with the scenes my character was in.
I did not consider this to be an unusual thing, seeing as I have had an experience with something like this before. I did a movie once where the script was written in a foreign language and only my parts were translated into English and accordingly, I was provided with my scenes only. Having experienced that, I thought the same thing was happening with “Desert Warrior”. Aware of the fact that the supposed producer and the script-writer of the movie (known as Sam Bassil) was a foreigner (thanks to his accent), I thought that the original script was written in his native tongue and that not all scenes were translated into English. Also, the filming dates of the movie had to be rescheduled last minute to fit my schedule (I had other films to do right after the “Desert Warrior” outside CA). Because of this rushed rearrangements, I thought that the production first forgot and then did not consider it necessary to send me the script, and again - I did not find this unusual, since I knew what role I had, I knew about my character and I knew about the story of the film.
My character Hilary was a young girl who is sold (against her own free will) by her parents to a tribe leader known as GEORGE. She is one of his (most likely, the youngest) brides in the movie.
The film was about a comet falling into a desert and different tribes in ancient Egypt fighting to acquire it for they deemed that the comet possessed some supernatural powers.
The movie that we were doing in Duarte was called “Desert Warrior” and it was a fictional adventure drama. The character GEORGE was a leader of one of those tribes fighting for the comet.
There was no mention EVER by anyone of MUHAMMAD and no mention of religion during the entire time I was on the set. I am hundred percent certain nobody in the cast and nobody in the US artistic side of the crew knew what was really planned for this “Desert Warrior”.
The atmosphere at the set was as friendly as possible. We all knew that we were doing an adventure drama for a very low budget financing. The director Alan Roberts even had plans that with this low budget product he would be able to get some more money to make a good quality version (by shooting it in the real desert and having better product in every category) of the “Desert Warrior”.

I had interactions with the man known as Sam Bassil on the set. He was very amiable, respectful, soft-spoken, always making sure that the filming was running smoothly and everyone was satisfied. He even told me the premiere of the movie was going to happen sometime soon and I would get a good amount of tickets to invite my friends and family.
I have never been informed about the premiere after that (if it ever happened) and have not seen the final product (if there is any, except for the short one that is uploaded online).
People ask what’s my reaction after seeing that.
Read the rest here.

(ht Hans Palmstierna)


  1. My question to her would be:
    Was there enough filming to produce a 2 hour movie? What evidence is there that an actual 2 hour movie exists? Did she act in any scenes that did not make it into the "trailer?"

    I'm not sure an answer to these question actually matters. However, I find it incredibly irresponsible of the news agencies to report that a feature length film actually exists without any evidence.
    Without evidence of a feature film, it seems that the goal all along was an 11 minute short-film designed to incite Muslim anger.
    Why incite Muslims?
    Cui bono?
    Who are the men who made the film?
    Are they tied to CIA or Mossad?

  2. Who the hell cares if it actually exists or not? People have a right to make fun of any god or "prophet" that they want to. If a bunch of 8th century barbarians can't handle that, it is on THEM to join civilization. Jesus, the barbarians reactions are not the fault of anyone else's, but the barbarians. The barbarians need to get thicker skin.

    1. The "movie" maker endangered the lives of the actors without their knowledge or permission for the change. Their reactions were, and are predictable, and Sam Bacile committed an act of aggression against the actors through his deceit.

    2. My post had nothing to do with whether or not a filmmaker has the right to create a film that makes fun of a god. I'm not particularly interested in that because, as a libertarian, I find it to be an obvious right consistent with the non-aggression axiom (provided, of course, that the actors' contracts are not violated as they appear to have been).

      I am interested, however, in the narrative, perhaps crafted, of an Israeli or Coptic Christian who makes a movie that has the effect of inciting violence throughout all the areas in the Middle East in which the US has an interest.

      That being said, I recognize your point, Rob. What does it matter whether there was full length movie or not? I'm not sure (as I said above). It just smells fishy. Why claim there was a 2 hour movie if there wasn't? It is just one more thing about the whole incident that doesn't make sense.

  3. She looks like Anne Hathaway in the first picture.

    1. She looks like Jessica Paré (Megan Draper in Mad Men) in the second picture.