From The Sex Life Of Jesus To The Innocence Of The Muslims

Looking at press coverage of The Innocence of the Muslims (2012) I’m not particularly surprised I’ve yet to find any that compares the reception of this film to the reaction that greeted Jens Jørgen Thorsen’s attempts to make the movie The Sex Life Of Jesus in the 1970s. Before even starting to shoot his flick Thorsen’s found himself vilified in the media and banned from the UK and many other countries. Thorsen had planned to make the film in Britain but was forced to (temporarily) abandon the project under intense opposition from Christian morality campaigners like Mary Whitehouse, Queen Elizabeth II (the fundamentalist head of the Church of England, as well as head of the British state), then British Prime Minister James Callaghan, as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury Donald Coggan (Elizabeth II’s top Church of England hatchet man of the time).

The racist mainstream media in the Anglo-American world portrays Muslim fundamentalism as a major world problem, while mostly ignoring the fact that Christian fundamentalists are far more of a danger (they are clearly much better armed once you take into account the influence of the Bible belt on American mainstream politics &c., and they’re also yearning for Armageddon). Since ultimately fundamentalism is a global manifestation of an inability to deal with the complexities of the modern world, it is only to be expected that reaction to _The Innocence Of The Muslim_s should mirror earlier reactions to The Sex Life Of Jesus.
Indeed during the 1980s there were ongoing petitions by US Christian fundamentalists arising from rumours that a film portraying Jesus as gay was about to be released. A number of sources suggest these rumours were based on a very partial knowledge of Ed D. Louie’s lost hardcore gay film Him (1974), which Al Goldstein described in the following terms in a review from his magazine Screw dated (29 April 1974): “The plot of HIM theoretically is about a faggot who is preoccupied with Christ and constantly has sexual reveries about balling that great Son of God.” Him was screened at the 55th Street Playhouse in Manhattan from 27th March to 23rd May 1974, and it possibly also played at a few other fleapit film theatres in American cities in the mid-seventies.
I’ve no idea if Jens Jørgen Thorsen was aware of Him, and if so whether it influenced his attempt to make The Sex Life Of Jesus. Due to pressure from reactionary Christian fundamentalists, Thorsen was unable to complete his movie about Jesus until the early 1990s, and when it was finally shot as Jesus vender tilbage (Jesus Returns – 1992) the script appears to have been drastically revised (to the extent that some maintain Thorsen never got to make the movie he’d proposed to shoot in the 1970s).
Thorsen was a leftist prankster and leading light of the Second Situationist International – and in many ways the reaction to his proposed film is more important than what he eventually made. I haven’t seen Jesus vender tilbage (and I’m not sure whether there is a version dubbed or subtitled into English), but I’ve been told by Danish speakers who have sat through it that it is awful. The films I have seen by Thorsen I’ve liked – his celluloid adaptation of Herny Miller’s Quiet Days In Clichy (1970) is a truly explosive marriage of avant-garde and exploitation cinema.
The producer of The Innocence Of The Muslims (Nakoula Basseley Nakoula) and his backers are exactly the type of right-wing extremist Christian nutjobs Thorsen exposed as reactionaries when his attempt to film The Sex Life Of Jesus was shut down by uptight scumbags ranging from Queen Elizabeth II on down. That said Nakoula’s project was in many ways subverted by those employed to carry it through. Director Alan Roberts is a competent low-budget exploitation film-maker. His work is lent a particularly surreal quality by the overdubbing of anti-Islamic elements not included in the original script and added after the end of his involvement in the production. The many commentators who say the film is bad or poorly made are simply bourgeois hacks whose judgements are based on the false ‘standards’ of high budget Hollywood ‘realism’. The Innocence Of The Muslims (or at least the nearly 14 minute long trailer for it available on the internet) shares many tropes found in the output of artists such as Mike Kelly or Paul McCarthy. Visually and in terms of acting this is not a bad film (if one judges it on terms other than those of Hollywood realism), what sucks about this production is the attempt to transform it into a racist rant via detournement through overdubbing.
The best element of The Innocence Of The Muslims is the manner in which its lack of realism destabilises meaning and forces the viewer to confront the issue of representation. The portrayal of Muhammad is so generic that he might as well be Jesus or Buddha or any other quasi-historical figure. This is not what the producer and his backers intended but then the real ‘meaning’ of the film no doubt escapes them. Likewise the prurience of the production clearly appeals to emotions the right-wing fundamentalist Christians who produced and support it probably wouldn’t care to admit they possess, but these are nonetheless integral parts of their personalities. This is what makes the bourgeois denunciations of The Innocence Of The Muslims as a bad piece of film-making all the more telling. It seems the privileged of the overdeveloped world would have preferred it if this production had succeeded as a piece of ‘realism’ and faithfully put across the message its producer hoped to convey – rather than undermining that message!
The Innocence Of The Muslims has a dialectical relationship to Thorsen’s Sex Life Of Jesus. As Marx observed in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, history repeats itself: “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Marx also famously noted in A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.” In other words we won’t get rid of fundamentalism until we get rid of capitalism. The process of disalienation will render any and all belief in ‘God’ absurd!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by Lucy Johnson on 2012-09-17 06:56:42 +0000

Cheers! I do often find myself wondering about the ‘muslamisicists’.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2012-09-17 14:13:28 +0000

This is one of the most insane news stories of the year – with the coverage telling very little about what is actually going on. Hopefully that will be completely corrected in time….

Comment by Hugh Mulhall on 2012-09-17 15:09:33 +0000

anymore news from Iran? if the bible is anything to go by his sex life was so unnatural as to have warranted the writing the f***** thin gitself – how about you – still the joys of alternative page threes

Comment by Anna Gurji on 2012-09-17 15:31:37 +0000

Anna Gurji is one of the actresses who starred in “Desert Warrior,” a movie that was supposed to be about tribal battles prompted by the arrival of a comet on Earth. Unfortunately, “Desert Warrior” was given a heavy dose of dubbing and post-production editing. The film is now known by a new, infamous name: “Innocence of Muslims.”
The anti-Islam movie, which now centers on a negative portrayal of Muhammad, has led to riots around much of the Arab world. After a series of bizarre twists involving false identities, the man behind the project has been identified as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a man with a criminal past that includes convictions on federal fraud and methamphetamine charges. Nakoula was taken in for questioning early Saturday morning, but was not under arrest.
In a letter posted on author Neil Gaiman’s website, Gurji makes explicit that she was not privy to Nakoula’s plans.
“There was no mention EVER by anyone of MUHAMMAD and no mention of religion during the entire time I was on the set,” she writes. “I am hundred percent certain nobody in the cast and nobody in the U.S. artistic side of the crew knew what was really planned for this ‘Desert Warrior.'”
The actress said that when “people [ask me what my reaction is] after seeing that,” she only has one word to offer: “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 continues. “I feel shattered … It’s painful to see how our faces were used to create something so atrocious without us knowing anything about it at all.”
While Gurji fears for her safety, she has not gone into hiding. “I don’t know what else to do but speak the truth,” she said. “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.”
Alan Roberts, a softcore porn director, has been identified as the project’s director. It appears as though he was also duped into thinking he was working on “Desert Warrior.”

Comment by Alan Smithee on 2012-09-17 20:57:04 +0000

My favourite Alan Roberts film is The Happy Hooker Goes To Hollywood!

Comment by Cindy Lee Garcia on 2012-09-17 22:07:32 +0000

Cindy Lee Garcia feels like the joke is on her.
Garcia, who has a role in the controversial low-budget film titled “Innocence of Muslims,” which has sparked riots against the U.S. in the Middle East and may have prompted the death of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, says she is outraged that the movie was digitally manipulated to show anti-Islam and anti-Muslim hate.
“The actors were deceived,” Garcia said. “My voice was dubbed, and it wasn’t even my voice. I had no idea he did that until the trailer came out. My only part was the role of a mother talking to her husband, her daughter and this man named Master George.”
In the film, Garcia plays the mother of a 12-year-old girl who is set to marry Prophet Muhammad.
Garcia is heard insulting Muhammad, asking her husband if Muhammad was “a child molester” because her “daughter is but a child, and he’s 55 years old.”
“I have the full script of what I said. They were saying, “Praise God, praise God,” because my daughter was going to be given in marriage to this man called Master George by my husband,” Garcia added. “So I mocked him for worshipping this man. They dubbed “Master George” to say ‘Muhammad.”
She says that they told her the film was named “Desert Warrior,” and that it was an action flick taking place in the desert over 2,000 years ago.
But after seeing the release of the 14-minute trailer on YouTube, where the Islam prophet Mohammed is shown in a negative light as a womanizer, murderer, thief and gay man, Garcia says she felt sickened.
“It repulses me,” Garcia said.“I can’t even watch it.”
“I called him [Sam Bacile] the morning that all this violence broke out in Libya,” Garcia continued. “He said to say that he’s the writer and he did it because he’s tired of radical Muslims attacking innocent people and that he was from Israel.”
Garcia says the she learned the FBI is investigating Bacile and that she is looking to press charges.
“I have an attorney helping me,” said Garcia. “I’m concerned for my family and my husband who I love very much. I can’t be around my family right now because of their fears.”

Comment by Frank Henenlotter on 2012-09-17 22:19:18 +0000

There is a rumour that Ed D. Louie is a pseudonym for Edward D. Wood and that him was his last work as a film director.

Comment by Joseph Nassralla on 2012-09-17 22:38:39 +0000

One of the purported filmmakers behind “Innocence of Muslims,” the low-budget anti-Muslim film that has generated unrest across the Arab world, issued a statement Monday saying that he was duped.
Joseph Nassralla, whose nonprofit organization Media for Christ pulled permits for the film, said he was shocked by the final product and lied to by filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
The statement was issued to anti-Muslim blogger and activist Pamela Geller, who also serves as executive director of American Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America. Nassralla said his involvement with the film was limited to letting Nakoula use his office as a shooting location. Nassralla said when Nakoula initially approached him about the project, he did know what type of movie he was making.
“He told me that he was making a film about Christian persecution, and that it would examine the culture of the desert and how it is related to what is going on right now,” Nassralla wrote. “The name of Nakoula’s film, he told me, was ‘Desert Warrior’.”
Nassralla, who said he has received death threats and remains in hiding, said Nakoula used his organization’s name to pull film permits without his knowledge. He also said the finished product was not the film he agreed to help with.
“Nakoula altered the film without anyone’s knowledge, changing its entire focus and dubbing in new dialogue,” he wrote. “He edited it. The final product, ‘Innocence of Muslims,’ bore no resemblance to the film I thought he was making, or the film the actors thought they were creating. We were shocked.”
Nassralla said blame for any violence that may have erupted lies with “those who are rioting and murdering,” not with the filmmakers.

Comment by James Kirkup on 2012-09-17 23:22:44 +0000

Ed D. Louie is right – Jesus was gay!

Comment by Anna Gurji on 2012-09-18 00:50:58 +0000

Everyone who wishes to find out the truth about the movie now known as the Innocence of Muslims, please read the whole of my comment. 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.

Comment by Chuz Martinez on 2012-09-18 06:02:54 +0000

The gods of the bourgeoisie are immortalised through mass media and this is why it often appears that people watching TV are entranced or engaging in meditation or worship. the aristocracy have always equated themselves with god/s, or seen class relations as their ‘god given right’ to rape the proletariat; but by universalising monetary relations, capitalism seeks to abolish the concept of rape. The reification of birth and death allows life to become spectacle and commodity: the new money/gods of the bourgeoisie are the ‘superstars’ and sex ‘gods’ who become more and more abstracted with every photograph , every video taken of them. These images do not simply steal their souls, they ‘kill’ them each time more and more, while symeltaneously making them ‘immortal’. It is no co-incidence that a lot of these images are soft-porn. Repeated masturbation over a fixed range of images speeds up conditioning and the process of internalising values: the commodification of the ‘sacred prostitutes’ is a sign of the rise of the bourgeoisie(3).

Comment by George Hamilton on 2012-09-18 15:14:14 +0000

I liked the Happy Hooker Goes To Washington more than the Goes To Hollywood flick, but I don’t think Alan Roberts had anything to do with the Washington Happy Hooker movie….

Comment by Jonah Goldberg on 2012-09-18 16:24:25 +0000

The Obama administration’s omnibus answer to why the Middle East (and now the much of the Muslim world) is in near open rebellion against the United States: The video did it.
The follow-up question no one seems to be asking is “What if the administration’s explanation is true?”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insists the attacks in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere were a “response not to United States policy, and not to, obviously, the administration, not to the American people,” but were rather a spontaneous “response to a video, a film we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting.”
On the Sunday shows, Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, reaffirmed the claim that this was all about a YouTube trailer.
What about the fact that many experts say the Benghazi, Libya, attacks looked like a sophisticated, coordinated assault with rocket-propelled grenades? Meaningless. It was the video. Even the president of Libya said, “The idea that this criminal and cowardly act was a spontaneous protest that just spun out of control is completely unfounded and preposterous.” Who cares? It was the video.
Al Qaeda is taking credit for the Benghazi assault as revenge for the June killing of Al Qaeda’s No. 2 man, Abu Yahya al Libi. What’s your point? It was the video.
Now, I think this is absurd, like a Monty Python sketch gone awry — the parrot’s not dead, he’s just resting! But let’s assume it’s true and it really is all about the video.
How on Earth is that better?

Comment by Shaven Raver on 2012-09-18 17:17:22 +0000

I prefer Happy Harcore to the Happy Hooker!

Comment by Lily Dionne on 2012-09-18 17:57:24 +0000

I feel sick at being involved in the anti-Islam movie. I was duped.

Comment by Luther Blissett on 2012-09-18 18:19:51 +0000

Jens Jørgen Thorsen’s paintings defy the laws of physics. He was probably better known as an artist than a film-maker!

Comment by Cindy Lee Garcia on 2012-09-18 19:30:11 +0000

I’m getting horrible death threats over the Internet, people saying they’re going to cut me up, chop me up and kill me and my family. Ahmad Nazir Bashiri told me I was lucky he couldn’t get his hands on me. “Otherwise I would have cut your head no matter what your country or lawmakers would have done to me,” he wrote.
Innocence of Muslims filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula duped the crew and changed the movie into filth with dubbed-in dialogue. I never saw a full film script, I did my own lines in front of a green screen and that was it. If I knew Nakoula was filming filth like that, I would never have been involved. I’m a minister of the gospel.
I’ve taken an assumed name and gone into hiding. I’m looking for a new place to live right now. My husband is really worried. All my family is in hysterics.

Comment by Hammerhead Phillips on 2012-09-18 21:43:16 +0000

Al Goldstein really knew his onions when it came to porno.

Comment by Lara Salahi on 2012-09-19 00:32:54 +0000

As the militant group Hezbollah led protests in Beirut today against the U.S. and a controversial anti-Islam movie, Egyptian cleric and talk show host Khaled Abdallah, one of the first to broadcast scenes from the film, said that although he had no regrets, he was “shocked” at the fury spreading through the Muslim world.
In an interview, Abdallah said that he was never inciting violence and that he deplored it.
Before the demonstrations erupted in Cairo and around the globe, Abdallah showed clips from the controversial film “The Innocence of Muslims.”
“I hope other media and TV will discuss this film,” he said during his show. “There is nothing as important in our life as the prophet and we defend the prophet.”
Days later, excerpts of the movie had reached the Muslim world, setting off anti-American demonstrations in Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Yemen and other countries.
Abdallah said today that the rage aimed at the U.S. had been simmering for years and had boiled over when people saw the movie. He hasn’t shown clips from the movie again.
In Beirut today, people poured into the streets with fists in the air in a show of anger. Some chanted, “Death to America.”
The leader of Hezbollah made a rare public appearance as well, calling the film that ridicules the prophet Muhammad the worst insult to Islam ever.
He warned that if the U.S. didn’t ban the film, there would be serious repercussions against the U.S. around the world.
The group also called for four more protests around Lebanon this week.
“Stop this movie,” one woman said. “Judge whoever did this movie in front of the court.”

Comment by Olivia Berger on 2012-09-19 00:48:42 +0000

Some of the actresses of the film accused Abanoub Basseley, 21-year old son of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula of compelling the female members of the film’s unit as well as the female actors to have sex with him, while Nakoula Basseley Nakoula also is accused of compelling some of the female actors to give him oral sex. Most of the actors in the movie were not only duped by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula but some of them were even provided fruit juice mixed with drugs so that they wouldn’t realize the role they were playing in the movie. “His sole motive was to use us merely as puppets to serve his ulterior motive by playing roles in the film”, said an actress.
Likewise, a court transcript shows that, as recently as 2010, Mr. Nakoula was identified as a federal informant, a title that his attorneys hoped would help in his case when he went before sentencing that year over an earlier conviction for check fraud.
According to the transcripts, attorneys for Mr. Nakoula pleaded for leniency when their client was sentenced in June 2010, arguing that “cooperation” with prosecutors in a separate case should be taken into consideration. Authorities had hoped that Nakoula would provide them with an direct link to Eiad Salameh, the mastermind of a check kiting scheme described in court papers as “a notorious fraudster who has been tracked for more than a decade by state and federal investigators.”

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