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September 19, 2017

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Filmmaker who sparked Middle East protests in hiding, upset by death: colleague

LOS ANGELES--The director of the film that has sparked protests in the Middle East is "upset" at the death of the U.S. envoy to Libya and has gone into hiding, fearing for his life, a colleague said Wednesday.

Steve Klein, a consultant on the low-budget "Innocence of Muslims," told AFP that Sam Bacile — not the filmmaker's real name — initially called the movie "The Innocence of Bin Laden" and hoped it would convert militant Muslims.

The film was only shown in full once in Hollywood about three months ago and drew no attention, Klein said, voicing shock at the eruption of violence this week, including anti-U.S. protests in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

"He's very upset that the ambassador got murdered," he said, referring to U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, who died along with three other Americans after protests at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Bacile "melted, he fell apart" when told about Stevens' death, added Klein, saying he had spoken to the filmmaker by phone earlier in the day. Bacile is also concerned about family members in Egypt, he said.

"They're underground too, in hiding, added Klein, one of 15 people behind the film project.

U.S. President Barack Obama quickly ordered increased security at U.S. diplomatic missions around the world after the deadly protests Tuesday, which coincided with the anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the United States.

In a Wall Street Journal interview published Tuesday, Bacile took straight aim at Islam.

"Islam is a cancer," Bacile said of his crudely-produced film, which depicts the Prophet Mohammed variously sleeping with women, talking about killing children and referring to a donkey as "the first Muslim animal."

He said he had worked with some 60 actors and 45 crew to make the two-hour movie in a three-month period last year in California. "The movie is a political movie. It's not a religious movie," he said.

Klein, a former U.S. Marine and Christian activist, said Bacile told him that the movie was aimed at radical or militant Muslims, to try to show them the "truth" about the Prophet Mohammed and convince them to renounce violence.

"His idea was to get them to the (movie) theater, and then to show the movie about Mohammed, the truth, to try to get a fraction of a fraction to say 'You know what, I really don't want to do this any more,'" he said.

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