A man who claims to have made the movie suspected of sparking the outrage and demonstrations that turned violent in Cairo and Libya and led to the slayings of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three others apparently has ties to the city of Cerritos.
In a phone interview with The Wall Street Journal late Tuesday, a California real-estate developer who identified himself as 52-year-old Israeli-American Sam Bacile said he made the film -- "Muhammad Movie Trailer" (also referred to as the "Innocence of Muslims") -- and was backed by Jewish donors.
The low budget 14-minute trailer, which was posted on YouTube in early July under an account listed as "Sam Bacile," includes vulgar and offensive scenes that insult and mock the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Portions of the actors lines also seem to have been poorly edited and dubbed over with voiceovers in post-production -- something that has left one of the actors threatening to sue the filmmaker.
According to the WSJ, a records search performed on Wednesday turned up no references to anyone in the U.S. by the name Sam Bacile. The cell phone number used in the initial phone interview, the WSJ reports, was registered to a user at a home in Cerritos but the number had since been disconnected.
Cerritos Home Draws Heavy Police and Media Presence Wednesday Night
A local resident informed Patch that at about 8 p.m. Wednesday night, several members of the media along with Cerritos sheriff's deputies were converged at a residence located south of 166th Street and Bloomfield Avenue, where the alleged filmmaker may reside. Calls to the questioning reports of the filmmaker's possible ties to the city were deferred to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Headquarters Bureau, which as of about 5:30 a.m. had no official comment on the matter. Media outlets from all over the world were reportedly bombarding the Cerritos Station with calls starting late Wednesday night.
A public records search performed by Patch of the Cerritos residence in question shows ties to the name Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
The WSJ reported that a young man who answered the door at that home on Wednesday afternoon said a man named Nakoula B. Nakoula lived there. But when another man answered the door at other times that same day, he said no one by that name lived there.
The Associated Press, however, reported early Thursday that it had tracked down Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who admitted to helping with logistics for the film, but he denied directing it. Nakoula also told the AP that he knew the self-described filmmaker, Sam Bacile.
Nakoula further denied posing as Bacile, although when he offered his driver's license to show his identity he kept his thumb over his middle name, Basseley, according to the AP.
Southland Muslim Leaders Condemn Film
Southern California Muslim leaders have condemned the slaying of the U.S. ambassador and the three foreign service workers as well as the film implicated at the heart of the outrage.
"It is certainly not a random act,'' Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said of the movie at a news conference in Anaheim Wednesday.
The movie "lacks any intellectual basis,'' Ayloush said. "It only includes vulgar and offensive scenes to incite and provoke such behavior from those who lack rationality in dealing with hate messages."
"The extremists who produced the movie threw bait and the extremist Muslims took the bait,'' he said.
The movie and the reaction to it show "a conflict (between) people who believe religion unites us versus those who use and abuse religion to promote their narrow agendas of hate and extremism,'' Ayloush said.
—City News Service contributed to this report.