A few years ago, a message came in to this website on the FAQ line from a young actress from Georgia (the one from the former USSR, not the State with Atlanta in it) called Anna Gurji. She sent a link to her webpage
and to films she had made in Georgia, and told me she was a fan, and if she ever came to the US, she would want to be in something of mine.
She made it to the US, and although she has never been in something of mine, she read the female lead (with Wil Wheaton as the male lead) in the first read-through of Michael Reaves' film BLOOD KISS. I was not there as a writer. I was there because I will actually act in it, playing a Hollywood director with a dark secret. So I've acted with Anna and spent time with her. She's a good sort.
She wrote to me the other day, worried.
Something very bad happened. I desperately need everyone's help right now.
I don't know how to start writing this letter. It's crazy, the world is.. life.. I'm so shattered right now, I don't know.. I feel very dead inside.
Last summer I auditioned for an indie low budget feature movie and I landed a supporting role. The movie was about a comet falling into a desert and ancient tribes fighting over it for they thought that the comet had some magical powers.
A year later, the movie was dubbed (without the actors' permission), the lines were changed drastically and the movie was morphed into an Anti-Islam film. Even the names of the characters were changed. And the character I had scenes with GEORGE became MUHAMMAD.
I really need your advice right now? How can I have my voice shown to the world so that I can tell them the real story.
All these media people that keep calling me are using my real story and then chopping or manipulating the interview the way they want to.
I don't know what to do. It's very scary, Neil.
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. The best weapon against lies is the truth, after all.
So here's what Anna knows about the truth:
Everyone who wishes to find out the truth about the movie now known as the Innocence of Muslims, please read the letter below. I, Anna Gurji, as one of the supporting actresses in the film will share with you what really happened.
A year ago, in the summer of 2011, I submitted my materials to various projects on the Explore Talent web-site. I received a call from the casting director of the movie “Desert Warrior”, and my audition date was scheduled. I auditioned for the role of Hilary. Several days later, I was informed that I got a callback. I did the callback. Several days later, I was informed that I landed the role of Hilary in the movie called “Desert Warrior”.
The filming of the movie was done in August of 2011. We were filming the movie in a studio warehouse with a green screen in Duarte, CA. The project was a low budget, independent feature movie.
The filming of the movie was beginning soon after the day I was told I got a role. The script was not sent to me. When I got to the set, I was merely provided with the scenes my character was in.
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”.
The atmosphere at the set was as friendly as possible. We all knew that we were doing an adventure drama for a very low budget financing. The director Alan Roberts even had plans that with this low budget product he would be able to get some more money to make a good quality version (by shooting it in the real desert and having better product in every category) of the “Desert Warrior”.
I had interactions with the man known as Sam Bassil on the set. He was very amiable, respectful, soft-spoken, always making sure that the filming was running smoothly and everyone was satisfied. He even told me the premiere of the movie was going to happen sometime soon and I would get a good amount of tickets to invite my friends and family.
I have never been informed about the premiere after that (if it ever happened) and have not seen the final product (if there is any, except for the short one that is uploaded online).
People ask what’s my reaction after seeing that.
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.
I feel shattered.
People who were tricked into believing that we were making an adventure drama about a comet falling into a desert did nothing but take part in a low budget indie feature film called the “Desert Warrior” that WAS about a comet falling into a desert and tribes in ancient Egypt fighting to acquire it.
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 don’t know what else to do but speak the truth. 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.
I grew up in Georgia Republic (ex-Soviet Union), I have witnessed the strikes, protests, demonstrations, injustice, cruelty, violence in my life. I was there during the war between Russia and Georgia, sleeping in outdoor clothes and packed backpacks waiting to be bombed. And I left my country, knowing that there was no future for a film actress there (seeing as the film industry is still in the process of recovery after the collapse of the Soviet Union).
Why did I want to pursue acting? I had a role in a short film when I was thirteen. There was a scene in the movie, where my beggar character and my character’s blind father were thrown off the bridge by police officers. During the filming of the scene, I was attacked by a huge lump in my throat, witnessing what the police were doing to my blind father. I wanted to cry, but knowing that my blind father would worry about me if he heard me cry, I swallowed the lump and stayed strong and did my best to defend him against the injustice. Experiencing the magic of acting (losing yourself into the character) was what had me fall in love with the craft. After a long journey and fighting to somehow get to the States, I managed to come here with my mother.
It’s so difficult for an actor (especially the one from a foreign country) to begin a career. People think that once you are in the States, you have all the doors opened before you. It’s not so. It’s very difficult to join the union, to get an agent, to lose your accent and to land roles if you don’t have connections. For four years I have been struggling to slowly move ahead and not give up. A year ago, when I got the supporting role in this indie feature film “Desert Warrior”, I was so excited.
I don’t understand why was this happened to me, when all I wanted to do was pursue my acting career.
I have to admit I wanted to pursue my acting career because I loved the process of transformation into a different character – a selfish reason.
A few months ago, I just finished writing a script with my father about world peace, which helped me understand something – forgive and care for your enemy. Then, I understood that there is a bigger reason for acting. When we act, we help people see all different characters that exist. When people see about all these different characters, they start to understand them. When they understand all these different characters, they come close to accepting them. When they come close to accepting them, they come close to being united. And when they come close to being united, they come close to loving and helping each other.
I was thinking about something a week ago. We are like cells in the body of Earth. Why won’t we work together and support each other instead of killing and destroying each other. If cells kill each other, eventually the body will die. By always speaking the truth and supporting the world peace, I hope we will be able to save the Earth from dying.. someday.
Growing up in a family that was extremely open-minded and respectful to all the differences in the world (all the religions) and growing up peacefully with people with so many different religions around me, it is devastating for me to have my face put into something that is completely opposite of what I believe in.
I want 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.