Neil Gaiman Shares Story from ‘Innocence of Muslims’ Actress
An actress in the anti-Muslim YouTube movie that has provoked condemnation from US officials abroad and widespread protests all around the world has reached out to an unexpected friend to tell her side of the story: Sandman creator and celebrated author Neil Gaiman.On his blog, Gaiman explained that he had met Anna Gurji first online, and then at the table-read of an upcoming movie called Blood Kiss. “She’s a good sort,” he explained, before sharing an email that he’d received from Gurji in which she asked for a way in which to explain her part in the controversial Innocence of Muslims movie without the media “chopping or manipulating the interview the way they want to.”
“I told her to write her story for me, to say what she wanted, and I would put it up here for her, as she wrote it, to get her message to the world,” Gaiman continued, adding “The best weapon against lies is the truth, after all.”
The story Gurji shares – available in full here, and please, go and read it – is a sad one on a number of levels. The movie, as shot, was not the same as the one released, she says. “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,” she explains. “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’.”
Not only were scripts given to actors incomplete, but scenes were redubbed after being shot, Gurji reveals. She describes her reaction to seeing the YouTube release as one of shock: “Two hours after I found out everything that had happened I gave Inside Edition an interview, the duration of which I could not stop crying,” she writes. “I felt shattered.” She goes on:
It’s painful to see how our faces were used to create something so atrocious without us knowing anything about it at all. It’s painful to see people being offended with the movie that used our faces to deliver lines (it’s obvious the movie was dubbed) that we were never informed of, it is painful to see people getting killed for this same movie, it is painful to hear people blame us when we did nothing but perform our art in the fictional adventure movie that was about a comet falling into a desert and tribes in ancient Egypt fighting to acquire it, it’s painful to be thought to be someone else when you are a completely different person.
Like I explained to Inside Edition, I feel awful.. I did not do anything but I feel awful.
I feel awful that a human being is capable of such evil. I feel awful about the lies, about the injustice, about the cruelty, about the violence, about the death of innocent people, about the pain of offended people, about the false accusations.
“I will not go into hiding (since I have nothing to hide), because if we don’t speak the truth, there is no world worth living for,” she reveals, adding that she “want[s] to send my condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives. Everything happens for a reason, they say. I believe this is a trap of evil to separate us from our humanity. We must stray strong and not forget that violence has not been able to get us anywhere spiritually and has not been able to make the world a better place. Understanding and love will.”
The use of Gaiman’s blog as an outlet for the essay seems surprising in that he has no real connection to the movie or, for that matter, the Muslim community. And yet, Gaiman has always been an advocate for free speech and creative expression, two concepts at the very heart of the firestorm surrounding Innocence of Muslims. It can only be hoped that his sharing of Gurji’s statement will lead to more rational discussion of the movie, and that such discussion can somewhat defuse the tension that it has caused to date.