Anti-Islam Movie Actor Sues Producers, YouTube To Have Film Removed

from the cat's-outta-the-bag dept

Not long after I had written my opinion that YouTube should absolutely not censor the disgusing anti-Islam movie that has inflamed oft-flammable parts of this rock we all live on together, interesting news began filtering into the bloodstream. Actors in “Innocence of Muslims” began accusing its producers of misleading them about the roles they played, dubbing dialogue over their performances, and other bizzare tactics that had supposedly been used to keep those in the film from knowing what the end product was going to look like.

[Lily] Dionne was one of about 79 cast and crew who say they were “grossly misled” when they answered casting calls on Craigslist, Backstage magazine and other publications in July 2011 for a film that was described as “an historical Arabian Desert adventure.”

But from the beginning, Dionne said the cast and crew had questions, including why the central character in a period piece had a Western name.

“We did wonder what it was about. They kept saying George. And we were like, 'This is the Middle East 2,000 years ago. Who's George?'” she said.

According to Dionne, the actors were then brought back after shooting to do the dubs, but the producers had them speak isolated lines and words, completely out of context. For instance, they were asked to simply say the name “Mohammed” and nothing else, with no explanation as to why. 79 cast and crew members have since released a statement claiming they were taken advantage of.

Now, one actress, Cindy Lee Garcia, has gone a step further and sued the man who produced the film, as well as YouTube, to, among other things, get the film taken down.

In a 17-page complaint filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the lawsuit from Cindy Lee Garcia also names YouTube LLC, the video-sharing website on which the video is posted, and its parent company, Google Inc., as causing irreparable harm to Ms. Garcia for refusing to remove the content from their site.

“The lawsuit is not an attack on the First Amendment or the right of Americans to say what they think,” but it demands the content be pulled off because “Ms. Garcia in no way consented to the use of her performance, image or likeness in such an offensive and file film,” Garcia's attorney, M. Cris Armenta, said in a statement.

A couple of things strike me here, so I'll take them in order. First, I'm unaware of how a film's director could be sued for slander (another aspect (pdf) of Garcia's lawsuit) because of the way he/she decides to portray the actors in their films. Slander should be out the window, since Garcia and the others were playing fictional roles, and so are not portrayed to be anything at all beyond the characters they were playing. Could Kevin Bacon sue Sleepers director Barry Levinson because the result of post-production for the film made his character look just a tad too child-rapey? The privacy violation and likeness rights violation in the suit seem equally ridiculous. She consented to be in a film! It’s understandable why she’s upset, but if that’s allowed, imagine how many actors would start suing every time a film edit is a disaster and makes them look bad.

As for the “fraud” claim, that may be the strongest of a bunch of very weak claims. You could make the case that the various elements of fraud are present, but almost every one of them is a stretch.

In any case, today the judge refused to order an emergency takedown of the video—though the lawsuits will move ahead.

Even if there is a civil suit to be had here, targeting YouTube and requesting they take the film down has all the hallmarks of a head-in-the-sand approach (beyond raising questions of secondary liability). The cat is not only out of the bag at this point, it's protesting at its local US Embassy. The damage is done. I can certainly understand* the distress actors feel over the worldwide reaction to a film they probably thought would never be seen, but that doesn't mean the film has to come down. Google, thus far, agrees, and has refused to remove the video beyond censoring it in certain countries.

*One caveat: the trailer for this film was released in May. Where the hell were all these outraged actors back then? Why is it only now the film has made the news that they are releasing statements, speaking out, and filing lawsuits? Did none of these actors bother to view the movie they were in before the mainstream media picked this up?

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Comments on “Anti-Islam Movie Actor Sues Producers, YouTube To Have Film Removed”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: CDA 101

You mean the D.S.B.P.O.N.I.P.U.G.C.B.T.A.S.I.F.L.I.W.O.M.M.W.F.Y.M.Y.L.L.Y..O.O.Y.E. Rule?

Don’t know what you’re talking about, that acronym just rolls off the tongue*.

*Assuming you’ve been practicing your chants to resurrect the Old Ones(and who hasn’t?) anyway. If you’ve been crazy/sane enough to not have been doing so, I suppose it might be a tad difficult to say…

nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Wouldn’t the Streissand Effect have a net positive effect here?

I sympathize with these actors as it looks like a very amateur production and it could be inferred from anyone who doesn’t have knowledge of how the industry works that this is a bunch of like-minded people who got together one day to make this production.

Exactly what these actors need to do is get on TV and News interviews explaining how they came to be part of it and how they disagree (let’s hope) with the final result – they could turn a lemon into lemonade – possibly even score some better roles from it.

I have watched it and you can see very, very obviously the parts that have been dubbed – the producer hasn’t even tried to cover it up. For SOME OF the people of Arab nations to become so offended by this film* doesn’t say much about their knowledge of production values.

*- I put massive emphasis on “SOME OF” because Westerners tend to lump people of Arab nations into one club. When there’s a mob lynching in some remote village they tend to project the sentiment onto the entire countries populace and it’s governments policy.

No-one questions “Has America’s experiment with democracy failed?” when an abortion clinic is bombed – it’s about time that this kind of passive racist inference ended in the West.

It’s gotten to the sad and ridiculous state that Arabs in fear of being attacked by the US take to holding up placards for foreign cameras. Thank you America for making the world a less safe and more fearful place!

Alex says:

I have to disagree with you here. I’m a producer myself and when our talent sign release forms, it’s standard practice to dictate the context of the video, how it will be used, and that the talent’s likeness, audio, etc. won’t be manipulated or used in any way that that’s derogatory, hateful, pornagraphic, etc.

Additionally, the burden of the release form is on the production company. In the event that no release form is signed, the talent has full rights to sue the hell out of whomever is responsible for using their likeness without permission.

The charges against Youtube and Google are silly, of course, and I suspect are just an effort to get the trailer taken down quickly. But based on the info presented here, the actors should have some ground to stand on in suing the producers.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I’m a producer myself and when our talent sign release forms, it’s standard practice to dictate the context of the video, how it will be used, and that the talent’s likeness, audio, etc. won’t be manipulated or used in any way that that’s derogatory, hateful, pornographic, etc.”

An honest producer? GTFO. You must be the only one LOL.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

But that’s the trick, you get them to sign release forms with that in them. The forms aren’t legally required. Did this guy have those forms? Did this producer even say what he wanted to make, or did the actors just assume?

Yes it’s underhanded to let people think incorrect things without correcting them, but is it illegal?

Vidiot (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Kind of makes me feel bad. OUR standard Consent and Release:

“…To use and reuse the photographs and /or recordings in whole or in part, in composite or distorted form… To use my own or a fictitious name in connection herewith if Producer or any of its designees so choose… I hereby release and discharge Producer… from any and all claims and demands… this includes, without limiting the above, any claims for libel, slander, defamation…”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You cannot sign away in contract the remedies that the law allows, plain and simple.

The fraud here may be that the actors and actresses may have been given a different script, which allowed the producer to shoot a movie without them actually knowing what the end product was about. Knowing the end product, would they have signed up for it? This actress says no, and sues.

You cannot mislead people and then expect to get away with it because you made them sign away their rights.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

actually, in large part, you can, unfortunately. see: Mandatory Arbitration ( something that needs to be got rid of, in my opinion. Arbitration is fine in theory, but since the companies pick the arbitrator, almost always the ruling goes in favour of the company involved, not nessecarily who is actually right.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

I suppose there’s the possibility that she’s doing this not to actually win the case, but more as a gesture to give publicity and legitimacy to her protestations. She may be trying to get the Streisand Effect to work for her. Hoping the suit will win in the court of public opinion which, after all, is more important to her career.

OldMugwump (profile) says:


More likely she’s trying to avoids a Rushdie-like fatwā (or the effective equivalent).

I do sympathize but she should have paid more attention to what she was getting into.

For the same reason I hesitate to say this (but will anyway):

With all the crazy rioting over cartoons, non-existent films, etc., I’m starting to think “Let’s All Draw Mohammad Day” wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Maybe the only way to defuse this is by acclimatization – let’s have billboards at every airport and city with drawings of Mohammad.

Of course there will be outrage (there is already), but after a while the outraged will have no choice but to get used to it and calm down.

I’m sure there are lots of people outraged over the easy accessibility of pornography on the Internet, but it’s so ubiquitous that they’ve gotten used to it.

[BTW, I’m an equal-opportunity offender; I’m happy to see billboards with drawings of Jesus, Moses, and Buddha too…even Bob Dobbs]

s says:

Re: Re: Re:

that would only serve to further polarize the masses, regardless of the religious figure used. here is an idea: stop being insensitive a douche bag and maybe people will learn to actually get along?

the thing that people need to acclimatize to is the fact that your neighbor is more like you than unlike you. And the masses need to have that idea reenforced, not denigrated.

or we can go your route and cater our society to extremists, which i’m sure will be fine too.

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’m suggesting a way to reduce the amount of violence in society and increase the amount of tolerance.

Is that being an insensitive douche bag?

Is defying the extremists the same as “catering” to them? I think not.

I have friends who are religious (none to the extent of extremist violence, so far as I can tell), and I would not be so rude as to mock their religions to their face. But in private with like-minded people, yes, I’ll mock.

But more important, there are people who ARE rude enough to mock in people’s faces – like the guy who made the movie trailer. There is NOTHING we can do to prevent people like that from continuing to poke at that sensitive spot – it’s going to happen whether the rest of us are polite or not.

So, given that, what can we do to reduce the violent reaction to that? If you have a better idea than mine, please suggest it!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“I do sympathize but she should have paid more attention to what she was getting into.”

I know someone who was fooled into a movie/documentary (you probably heard of the movie) where what they said was totally and intentionally taken out of context and translated incorrectly and that person should be able to sue and win (I think they settled in the case I’m describing).

Perhaps little to no indication of how the movie will be used was reasonably disclosed and, instead, something quite different was expressed. I do have sympathy for these actors and if they were mislead they should win.

Grae (profile) says:

Re: More...

*One caveat: the trailer for this film was released in May. Where the hell were all these outraged actors back then? Why is it only now the film has made the news that they are releasing statements, speaking out, and filing lawsuits? Did none of these actors bother to view the movie they were in before the mainstream media picked this up?

Seems the answer lies in a letter from another actress in the film that OC linked to:

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?.

Basically the intent of the film was obscured by the producer and the process. They wouldn’t have known to search for the YouTube release as they weren’t even informed of it. The letter actually does a very good job of explaining how such a thing could have come about without the actors involved realizing.

Anonymous Coward says:

People, this is just a distraction. Regardless, the censor story notwithstanding,...

The recent middle east upheaval is not about this ridiculous youtube vid. There were hundreds of men armed with guns, they used rocket propelled grenades (RPG’s) and mortars. The attack was planned, the safe house location was also known and attacked by the Al Qeada-linked terrorists. The dead bodies were paraded in the streets. The Embassy was warned by the Libyan government of a potential attack several days prior. In spite of known intelligence, in spite of the truth, Obama claims this all over a youtube vid. His desperately protecting his image as a great “Unifier”, which is a joke. He’s counting on the stupidity of Americans while he lies right to our faces. Reminds me of one of the diversion tactics Clinton used when he ordered Tomahawk cruise missiles fired on some (empty) tents in the desert while he was on the stand, perjuring himself.

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