There are numerous methods to manipulate people online, such as impersonation, fraud, and both legal and illegal actions.
A 27-year-old scam filmmaker successfully persuaded online users and reporters to cover his story and spread false information by repeatedly publishing photoshopped honors and nomination certificates.
The unverified filmmaker used the internet to illustrate identity-based forms of deception.
This article demonstrates how issues with self-presentation can contribute to the spread of false information and unethical behavior through online identity manipulation.
On August 20, 2022, Mohammed Khamis, a Palestinian Syrian refugee living in Landskrona, Sweden, announced on his official Facebook account that his film "Three Stories from Gaza" won the Best Director Award in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Khamis claimed that his documentary film won the 2022 Mindfield Film Festival competition on August 9, 2022.
After conducting a thorough investigation into the claims made by the Palestinian-Syrian filmmaker, Misbar's team determined that they are baseless.
Albuquerque’s Mindfield Film Festival 2022 Awards
Misbar was unable to locate "Three Stories from Gaza” or "Mohammed Khamis" listed as 2022 Mindfield Film Festival winners in any category on the festival's official website or IMDB.
According to Mindfield’s website, Meg Poveromo won the Best Director award for July/August 2022, according to the site.
Misbar contacted Mindfield Film Festival to inquire about Mohammed Khamis' participation in the competition. Up to the time of publishing this article, they have not responded.
The Mindfield Film Festival is an annual festival that supports independent, new, and alternative filmmakers.
Digitally Altered Award Winnings Certificates
Misbar found photos that had been digitally altered and posted on Khamis' Facebook page, claiming to be evidence of the success of his documentaries.
The picture below compares the original image to the digitally altered image posted on Khamis' Facebook profile.
The frames and signatures of the certificates are identical.
The Liverpool Independent Awards
On September 4, 2022, Khamis announced that his film "Three Stories From Gaza" had won the Best Documentary Film at the Liverpool Independent Awards. He claimed that the festival was held in Liverpool on August 27, 2022. Along with the claim, he posted a poster that purported to show the winning official statement for his film's cover from The Independent Awards.
According to Misbar's investigation, the Liverpool Independent Awards have not yet announced any category winners.
Submissions for the Independent Awards are still being accepted until November 2, 2022.
We also discovered that the Independent Awards Festival was not held in Liverpool on August 27; instead, the event is scheduled to take place on November 7, 2022.
According to the Independent Awards Festival's website, the logo on Khamis' certificate does not match the one used by the competition's first-round winners.
Front Magazine Covers Photoshopped
On Khamis's verified Facebook page, we speculated a photo that purportedly shows him on the cover of the French “Le Petit Journal” on September 29, 2021.
We traced the “Le Petit Journal” Magazine back to September 29, 2021, and discovered a different cover. This indicates that the magazine cover was digitally altered.
We also looked through the magazines' publications in 2021 but were not able to recognize or locate any reports mentioning Khamis.
Following further investigation, we discovered that the original photo that had been altered was the cover of the magazine's issue dated August 23, 2018.
The Filmmaker Deceives News Agencies
Mohammed Khamis was not only able to mislead his social media followers by publishing altered press releases and certificates, but he also had the ability to mislead journalists and news agencies.
For example, Syria TV included a digitally altered magazine cover that Khamis posted on his Facebook in September 2021 in a report on his achievements.
Moreover, TRT Arabic hosted Khamis on the "Yeni Sabah" morning show.
His film, which displayed fabricated award logos that he did not win, was aired live during the interview.
Khamis was also interviewed on a live program on Al Jazeera, where he spoke about his numerous awards and accomplishments.
During the interview, one of Khamis's doctored award certificates was also streamed.
Los Angeles Film Awards
Khamis announced on Facebook on July 31, 2022, that his documentary "Three Stories from Gaza" had been nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Los Angeles Film Awards.
The post was accompanied by two posters purporting to show LAFA's officially featuring Khamis' film nomination.
Misbar, however, discovered some typos in the posters advertising the LAFA-nominated film.
Misbar conducted a thorough search on the Los Angeles Film Awards website but did not find "Three Stories from Gaza" in the 2021 or 2022 Best Documentary Feature Nominations lists.
Below are screenshots of the LAFA 2021 and 2022 nomination lists.
Film Director Claims Boycotting Docaviv Festival
On September 8, 2022, reports that the Palestinian-Syrian director had refused to normalize relations with Israel by withdrawing his film "Three Stories from Gaza" from the Docaviv Film Festival in Tel Aviv went viral online.
Social media users and news outlets widely shared the claim in Arabic and English.
The Docaviv International Documentary Film Festival began on Thursday, May 26, 2022, and ended on Sunday, June 5, 2022, according to the festival's official website.
As the Docaviv Film Festival in Tel Aviv ended in June 2022, Misbar was unable to locate any evidence indicating that "Three Stories from Gaza" withdrew from the festival in September 2022.
Mohammed Khamis’ Filmfreeway Profile
After investigating numerous film festival-related claims, we discovered FilmFreeway, a website that connects filmmakers with film festivals. All the festivals that supposedly honored Khamis, inquired filmmakers to submit their works through FilmFreeway.
A FilmFreeway profile exists for Mohammed Khamis, but it makes no mention of the award nominations he promotes on Facebook.
Furthermore, none of the alleged nominated documentaries for which he was awarded were uploaded on the website and none of the awards or nominations he alleged to have received were mentioned on his FilmFreeway profile.
Despite the fact that Khamis has been using photoshop to fabricate his life and career, he currently has 109,760 followers on Facebook and has been interviewed by a series of prominent news agencies.
Misbar's Arabic Team contributed to this investigation.