Impression of “Life of Muhammad” Trailer

So this seems to be the trailer of the film — supported by the controversial Terry Jones — that rioters in Egypt and Libya used as justification to attack the United States, and kill our Ambassador.

Watch if you want, but it’s not well edited or well directed. The quality is below the quality of the Full Motion Video that was common on computer games in the 1990s. “Triumph of the Will” this is not.

The film’s purpose appears to be to defame Islam — Jack Chick style — rather than be informative, so the trailer appears to make a number of novel and false accusations against him. This is puzzling, given that Muhammad was definitely a pedophile by the modern definition (which may not have been that rare for the time and placed he lived in), and was arguably a genocidier, one would have thought it was pointless to make up facts about him or his religion, when there are so many laying around ready to spin!

If the purpose of the film is to lower Americans’ view of Islam, the riots in Egypt and Libya probably mean that the director succeeded. Unlike other artists who labor to bring beauty to the ghastly (Leni Reifenstahl, Zhang Yimou, and Jack Chick himself) there seems to be no sense of artistry or beauty in this film. As ghastly as National-Socialism, Chinese imperial fascism, and general bigotry may be, Reifenstahl, Zhang, and Chick all use the gift of art to make that view seem — if only for an instant — beautiful. The trailer for Life of Muhammad never reaches this level.

Now compare Life of Muhammad to Life of L. Ron Hubbard The Master, a film trailer that attacks the founder of a religion that also is beautiful:

What a better world we would live in if the Arab street would riot for bad taste!

27 thoughts on “Impression of “Life of Muhammad” Trailer”

  1. I believe that the character portrayed in the trailer for The Master is not actually the “L. Ron Hubbard” character of the movie, but only his most ambitious project. (If The Master’s methods can work on Phoenix’s character, they’ll work on anyone….)

    There’s another trailer which includes a line from the Hubbardeque character’s son, to Phoenix’s character, saying basically, “You know he’s making it up as he goes along, don’t you?” Apparently this line caused Tom Cruise to go nearly ballistic when he saw it at an L.A. screening.

  2. Here’s the long trailer, which includes Hoffman’s portrayal of The Master and the line that pissed Cruise off:

    http://youtu.be/fJ1O1vb9AUU

    (My only point is that “a film trailer that attacks the founder of a religion” doesn’t quite describe the shorter trailer you posted. ;) )

  3. Curtis,

    100% correct! :-)

    My common theme (perhaps too subtle by half) is that all the examples of good agitprop art I highlighted reference the enemy only by indirection (no Jews in Triumph of Will, no Muhammed in Chick’s track, no traitorous enemy in Zhang’s work, and even L Ron Hubbard is not given the pride of place in the teaser for his own film).

    Hate, like horror or sex, is often best left implied in film. The viewer’s mind makes the most vivid scenes…

  4. I couldn’t agree more. (especially glad to see you also saw ‘Hero’ as pro-fascist, and taking note of how Scientology seems to be the only ‘fair game’ religion among the otherwise-PC crowd)

    The trailer is just really awful. Especially for a film that supposedly cost $5 million

    The latest seemingly credible info on the movie says Terry Jones isn’t involved, and producer “Sam Bacile” is a pseudonym. Not sure if that’s out of fear of retaliation or because you’re not allowed to use “Alan Smithee” anymore.

    At first I thought it was Sam Harris, but he’s a much better writer than that.

  5. Dan,

    You might like these two articles on the Muhammad vid, which are very interesting:

    “WHY ARE ALL THE RELIGIOUS REFERENCES IN “INNOCENCE OF MUSLIMS” DUBBED? [UPDATED]”– http://www.onthemedia.org/blogs/on-the-media/2012/sep/12/religious-references-innocence-muslims-dubbed/

    “‘It Makes Me Sick’: Actress in Muhammed Movie Says She Was Deceived, Had No Idea It Was About Islam”– http://gawker.com/5942748/it-makes-me-sick-actress-in-muhammed-movie-says-she-was-deceived-had-no-idea-it-was-about-islam

  6. Interesting!

    I noticed the terrible dubbing too, but hadn’t realized it was so consistent to the religious references.

    I know there’s a history of auteur directors using deception — for instance, in filming the American flag scene in Patton — but as I mentioned above, I don’t see art in this film.

    Horror can be beautiful. Sex can be beautiful. Cheesy can be beautiful. Even hate can be beautiful.

    This is just bad.

  7. Don’t you think it is peculiar that such measures might be required to make ANY movie about Islam’s birth, at least any that include a direct depiction of M.?

    Another article points to a conservative Coptic Christian in California (convicted of fraud in the past) as the mysterious director: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/13/anti-islamic-film-us-nakoula

    The only problem might be, such a revelation could well backfire on the Coptic Christians in Egypt…..

  8. Curtis,

    A friend of mine is a Copt, who mentioned to me since Mubarrak fell, Copts have fallen from 2nd class citizens to 3rd class citizens. If you know the Night of Broken Glass is inevitable, just as well not go without screaming…

    That said, Comedy Central’s cowardice wrt South Park’s and Muhammed point to the general terror that you mention.

    In the article you linked to, this struck out:

    “Once, Garcia said, Bacile wanted a girl that “Master George” (aka Muhammed) was to sleep with to look seven years old, instead of 10, to heighten the outrage. But his Assistant Directors protested, saying that was too young.”

    Aisha was 7 when she married Muhammad. The marriage was consummated when she was 9 or 10. You could make a skin-crawling film that takes place in real time following Aisha in the 90 minutes before either the bedchamber or the ceremony. Muhammad would not even have to appear in the film. And it’s hard to imagine how such an approach could be this cheesy.

    Of course, the film-maker may have intended this to be seen and to provoke anger, and if the reaction to it by the Arab street was ‘ah, interesting, I’d like a wife that young myself,’ it would fail in achieving its objective…

  9. Free speech, sure, but I legitimately hope they investigate this guy for tax evasion, etc. Looks to me like the whole video is a scheme to raise money from anti-Muslim Jews and embezzle a huge chunk for himself. The production value of this movie can’t begin to approach $5 million.

  10. Re the Life of video… I thought it was going to be a comedy at first given the interaction between young Mo, the tough guy with stars painted around his nipples and the hungry meat eating girl. Also, the later scene with several of his waves chasing him with their shoes after he slept with yet another seemed like bad slapstick. The movie was pretty bad…Mystery Science Theater worthy bad.

    It doesn’t matter though. It is all pretex.The Islamos will always find excuses to act barbaric. Sadly, enough Americans and American leaders find reasons to excuses and to blame America/Americans.The self-loathing and appeasement instincts are strong.

  11. Forgive me Carina, but what you describe is a horrible thing that begs to be abused.

    Sure, we finally got Al Capone… For tax fraud… Not murder, conspiracy, money laundering, Racketeering, and countless other crimes… What does it say about our system when you cannot go after someone for what they did
    .. But instead for a technicality as to what they made have accidentally done?

    Go one step further… You filed a tax return or two… Under penalty of perjury no less… Are you absolutely sure that there is nothing in your taxes that could be used or abused to cause you pain and legal issues from the government if you happened to to tick off the wrong person?

    Honestly… I cant say that about mine… Because those you are advocating to use the full force of the law will no doubt find something.

  12. CG,

    Interesting point. I wonder if Coptic hostility to the Greek Orthodox/Latin Catholic churches still exist.

    PS,

    Well said. The film could have easily turned into a sexploitation flick.

    CM,

    As I understand your comment, you support State Violence against those with ideas you disagree with, implemented thru the tax code. I oppose this disturbing and disgusting idea.

    Related: http://www.halfsigma.com/2012/09/nakoula-basseley-nakoula.html

    BG,

    Well said.

  13. While abusing taxing authority may be a genuinely terrifying prospect, I do wonder if the director/producer could be prosecuted for something related to deception wrt the actors who worked on this project. Certainly, at a minimum, they could pursue a civil suit (depending perhaps on what rights they signed away in any contracts they signed with him.)

    There could well be other issues of fraud involved. He has proven a predisposition for committing fraud already.

  14. I’ve got to be honest — if I were an executive producer who gave money to this guy to make me a film and he turned in something of this quality, I’d file a lawsuit and call the IRS too.

    That’s why I think Dan’s discussion of quality matters. If Mr. Nakoula were Salman Rushdie or Leni Riefenstahl, he’d be the toast of the Western World right now. Artistic merit is even a factor courts use in determining whether speech is constitutionally protected or not. (For example: Lars von Trier making a beautiful movie that promotes fascism is Good. Lars von Trier telling a non-beautiful joke that promotes fascism is Bad.)

    Imagine if Libya adopted our Miller Test, but included violence and religious desecration along with sex. Could this movie trailer be obscene?

  15. No, that isn’t why I thought that. I could see why you interpreted it that way, though. I just meant that any person embezzling money in the millions should be investigated. I don’t like people (even people donating money to promote films criticizing a religion) having their money stolen.

    Anyway, now it looks like that part of the story isn’t even true. Who knows what is?

  16. Questions remained about whether Nakoula’s filmmaking and Internet distribution activities might have violated his federal probation and send him back to prison.

    Nakoula pleaded no contest in 2010 to federal bank fraud charges in California and was ordered to pay more than $790,000 in restitution. He was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and ordered not to use computers, the Internet or online user or screen names for five years without approval from his probation officer. He is still on probation, according to court records.

    –http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/13/nakoula-basseley-nakoula-innocence-of-muslims-anti-islam-movie_n_1880175.html

  17. Curtis,

    I’m not sure what private parties might be against him, nor particularly interested in that. I’m horrified by Carina’s and other’s encouragement of State Violence in retaliation for disfavored speech.

    I don’t know any of the principals involved, however, and really could care less about their business squabbles.

    Catholicgauze,

    It’s definitely hard to keep up to date with the news here! Do you have a link to give more detail?

    Adam,

    “Imagine if Libya adopted our Miller Test, but included violence and religious desecration along with sex. Could this movie trailer be obscene?”

    Yes, if you’d gut the first amendment, you’d find that it protects less speech. Of course, a Freedom of Speech that doesn’t include freedom of religious speech is rather meaningless, hence the wording of our First Amendment.

    Carina,

    “I just meant that any person embezzling money in the millions should be investigated”

    This is true, though of course in the real world prosecutors use discretion. What a terrifying world we would (and to an extent, do) live in, where prosecutors use the trouble speech causes the government as an element in their discretion…

  18. Or do you mean to say that I or you or your neighbor can commit any crime we wish and then publish something incendiary — and claim immunity from all punishment for the rest of our lives?

  19. Curtis,

    Reading the comments you are responding to might ease a good deal of your confusion. :-)

    Prosecutors have discretion as to which cases to investigate, where to prioritize resources, etc. To the extent they do so based on disfavoring the speech, they are hostile to speech. To the extent they do so based on other factors, they are not.

  20. Dan, prosecutors have discretion, and I’m not altogether sure how you will change that fact. Discretion may be determined by weighing available facts (whether a case can be made) and the severity of the crime and other factors; but I’m not aware of anything other than the vote that may act as a rule book on this.

    There also needs to be made this distinction: Whatever the prosecutor decides to investigate may turn up evidence of crimes of varying severity. For instance, if I write an incendiary article, it may indeed become “incendiary” by stirring up riots, and a prosecutor may decide to investigate me. He might turn up the fact that I occasionally cross the center line while driving—because I’m searching for a song to play on my new iPhone! Now, he might decide to prosecute; and, I might deserve to be punished; and, the punishment isn’t likely to be too great. But if he decides to investigate someone else who wrote an inflammatory piece and during the investigation he turns up bank fraud, murders, donations from terrorists (or to terrorists), and the like, I would expect him to prosecute for that.

    In either case however, he would need some other initial evidence in order to launch an official investigation. I think you would agree that the mere words the suspect uses for propaganda should not be enough to get the investigation underway. (There is also the prevalent paranoia that most people, if investigated thoroughly, could be found to be lawbreakers! Montaigne said somewhere that there probably isn’t anyone who hasn’t deserved to be hanged at least three times in his life.)

  21. Curtis,

    I think I generally agree.

    Prosecturial discretion is as integral to the Common Law as, say, the power of Eminant Domain.

    Likewise, I think we both would find it ghastly that a prosecutor would use that discretion to persecute speech he dislikes.

    Likewise, in the modern regulatory state where agencies regularly have ambiguous or mutually-contradictory rules and regulations, the power of discretion to ruin political opponents is frightening indeed…

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