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Controversial movie filmed locally

U.S. Embassies increase security as protests rise against film, which mocks Muslim prophet Muhammad

Posted: September 14, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 14, 2012 2:00 a.m.

This July 16, 2011, Signal file photo shows enthusiasts playing war games in a filming set at Blue Cloud Movie Ranch, where "Innocence of Muslims" was filmed in the Santa Clarita Valley.

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A movie that has sparked international outrage and foreign embassy protests was made at a movie ranch in the Santa Clarita Valley, officials said Thursday.

The film, taped Aug. 18, 2011, at Blue Cloud Movie Ranch under the working title “Desert Warrior,” has been tied to Thursday’s violent protests in Iran, according to local experts.

Excerpts from the movie, shown under the title “Innocence of Muslims,” enraged Islamic protesters in Egypt, Libya and Yemen over its portrayal of the prophet Muhammad.

The film’s content is “extremely provocative and vulgar,” according to Ali Akbar Mahdi, a College of the Canyons sociology professor who specializes in Middle Eastern affairs.

The Muslim religion forbids depictions of the prophet Muhammad, who is involved in sexually explicit scenes in the film, Mahdi said.

The film apparently had a brief run at the Vine Theater, a faded Hollywood movie house. The YouTube clips are called “Muhammad Movie Trailer” and “The Real Life of Muhammad.”

The actors in the film issued a joint statement Wednesday saying they were misled about the project and said some of their dialogue was crudely dubbed during post-production.

The federal government issued a warning to local law enforcement regarding the potential for concern in light of the attack on an American Embassy that killed four people, according to Matthew Chandler of the Department of Homeland Security.

There is no link between the deadly attack in Libya and the film, according to officials. But local authorities have been put on notice.

“Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a joint intelligence bulletin to their federal, state, local, tribal and private sector partners (Wednesday) on potential security concerns related to a video that has circulated on the Internet,” according to an email from Chandler.

“The bulletin assesses that there is no specific, credible information at this time to indicate that the recent attacks in Libya and Egypt have significantly increased the threat of violent reaction to the video in the United States,” according to a Homeland Security statement.

“What happened (Thursday) in Yemen was related to the movie, definitely,” Mahdi said, referring to hundreds of protesters who stormed the U.S. Embassy compound chanting “death to America,” “because now more and more Muslims are hearing it and they’re going to be attuned to it, and they’re going to react to it.”

U.S. Embassies across the world ramped up security Thursday following an attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya as Muslims angry over the anti-Islam film stormed the U.S. mission in Yemen and clashed with police near the American mission in Cairo.

Locally, deputies have also been made aware of the situation, according to officials.

“Whenever we’re aware of something like that, we try to make a little bit of an increased presence in the area,” said Lt. Brenda Cambra of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.

City officials in Duarte increased security near Media for Christ, which is believed to be listed as the producer on the film’s permit.

“From the minute I got the call (on Wednesday evening), it didn’t take long to put two and two together,” said Duarte City Manager Darrell George, regarding the potential for a situation.

“This is a pretty crazy thing, and when you’ve got all this unrest thousands of miles away and in our little city, you’ve got a business that’s potentially connected — you’ve got to keep an eye on things,” George said.

The permit was not made public Thursday due to safety concerns for the cast and crew, according to an official with Film LA Inc., a nonprofit that helps permit movies in Los Angeles County.

“The concern is obviously what the film has generated elsewhere, and they want to makes sure the people are aware of what’s going on around this film,” said Paul Audley, president of Film LA.

“They’re making safety notifications on this one, which is not normal,” he said.

Rene Veluzat, who owns Blue Cloud Movie Ranch, did not return phone calls or an email Thursday morning for comment.

In this type of situation, keeping open communication with law enforcement is the most important thing, according to Louis Perry, a security expert who runs a local firm.

“It’s one of those things where you’ve got to make sure you’re communicating what’s wrong,” Perry said. “I hate to put it this way, but it’s like an earthquake. We shouldn’t wait until we have an earthquake to be prepared. You don’t wait till you have a major incident.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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