Monday, September 29, 2008

Home Stretch for the rough cut

Tapestries is beginning its home stretch (woo hoo!). With a strong post production team in place - led by line producer Christopher Bankston, editor Jessica Sison and writer Susan Black and backed by the amazing post production facilities at FatBox Films - the team, led by director Michealane Risley is hoping to have a rough cut in the Fall, in preparation for premiere in 2009!

Thanks for all your support (real world at our fundraisers, blogosphere and everything in between). We'd love to see you at an upcoming fundraiser on October 19th at the McGrail Vineyards in Livermore (see invitation below). Signup online.

Also, Tapestries was invited to a panel discussion organized by the Producers' Guild of America featuring pathbreaking filmmakers who are leveraging new media to raise money, build audience and find distribution for their projects. Other filmmakers included Mark Jonathan Harris, who is behind Darfur Now and other Oscar-winning documentary films and the panel was moderated by Peter Broderick, who has worked with Christopher Nolan and 600+ other filmmakers on online strategies.

ps: huge shoutout to Jessica (our editor) whose short is screening at festivals everywhere. Track a screening near you!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Christian Science Monitor feature + Women@Google Speech

Christian Science Monitor recently wrote a feature about filmmakers successfully leveraging their online / social network fans to help with fundraising, and Tapestries was featured in this story. An excerpt:
Filmmaker Michealene Cristini Risley has connected with activists concerned about sexual abuse by blogging about her experiences, which include being arrested and detained in Africa for filming without a journalist’s permit. “[The documentary] goes after that niche audience that is aware of the issue, that is somewhat socially conscious,” says Anand Chandrasekaran, one of the film’s producers.
The film is well into post production and preparing to be completed in the Fall. Also, director Michealene Risley was invited to the Women@Google series, which has featured Sen.Hillary Clinton among others in the past. Below is the video from the talk:

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Benefit concert fundraiser at Wente Vineyards a SUCCESS!

Our benefit concert fundraiser at Wente Vineyards on June 28th was a SUCCESS in terms of both entertainment AND fundraising!

Attendees were treated to an eclectic blend of jazz, world, classical, and rock from acclaimed band THE FRONT PORCH. Check out these three short music videos from the charity event:

Attendees were also treated to an inspirational speech by "Tapestries of Hope" Director Michealene Cristini Risley:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

THIS Saturday, June 28th, 2008, from 1 to 3 pm

This is turning out to be a busy week for Tapestries of Hope with director Michealene Cristini Risley just finishing a talk by invitation at Google as part of the Women@Google series (This after Risley's successful Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders' Seminar at Stanford University with producer Anand Chandrasekaran).

This Saturday, June 28th, 2008, from 1 to 3 pm, is the Tapestries of Hope Fundraiser Wine & Music Event. You're invited to Wente Vineyards (California's oldest family owned and continuously operated winery) for an afternoon of live music, free food, wine tasting, and helping our human rights cause in the historic (air-conditioned) Estate Winery Barrel Room, located at 5565 Tesla Road in Livermore, CA.

Enjoy live music from winemaker Karl Wente's acclaimed band The Front Porch, which includes Tapestries of Hope producer Ray Arthur Wang, a retired concert pianist. The Front Porch rotates through multiple genres for a truly unique listening experience: hear original music as well as The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Van Morrison, Tom Petty, Chick Corea, Beethoven, Gershwin, etc. (Joining The Front Porch for this charity event will be world renowned percussionist Kenneth Nash, famed for his collaborations with Bobby McFerrin, Herbie Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie, B.B.King, Woody Herman, Weather Report, and many more.)

All proceeds from the concert ticket sales go to complete Tapestries of Hope, the human rights movie and social entrepreneurship effort that you're familiar with. Michealene will speak at the event.

For the philanthropists out there, tickets go for donation levels of $25, $100, and $500, the latter two coming with great perks. Click here to RSVP today!

For those with a tighter budget, there are group discounts: you can show up at the door in a group of 2 for $5 OFF each $25 minimum entry fee. Show up in a group of 3+ for $10 OFF each entry fee.

As a thank you for your donation to our registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, you will receive up to $50 savings off wine and merchandise in the Wente Family Estates tasting rooms. Restrictions may apply.

Finally, the blog love for Tapestries of Hope continues with this nice read.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Blog love for Tapestries

Tapestries is in post-production (a HUGE shout-out to Kent and the amazing team at Fat Box, and our editors Robin Chin and Vanessa Perez!)... feels like the beginning of the home stretch. From the first meeting with Betty Makoni in April 2007 and beginning of pre-production in Summer '07 to now feels like a long journey. Now the wait begins...

The ability to tell such a powerful and important story... we're excited, to say the least!

The blogosphere is excited too this week. Following is a snapshot of the collective bear hug the project and its director received:

- Amy Jussel's Shaping Youth blog... an excerpt:
Obviously, it’s a touchy subject to awaken the world to the story of two child abuse survivors fighting to expose these horrors, but Michealene has managed to ‘pay it forward’ with profound positivity by giving people the tools to engage at IndieGoGo, a cool social media film fundraising site for supporters like me to make a difference.
- Mamalicious blog... an excerpt:
I’m so lame. Tapestries of Hope has been on my to-blog list for a minute, but I hadn’t gotten around to it because it deserves much more than a rush job, and that’s where I am these days. But Amy Jussel at ShapingYouth has done the damn thing–and done it right.
- Ideas for international development blog (blog in French).

On another positive note, Tapestries is the first movie to repeat online fundraising success on the new site IndieGoGo! Check out the project's page and get involved today. You can choose the movies that get made.

Thanks a ton for all the support. Stay tuned for more updates.

We love you too!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Estimated Cost of Human Life in Zimbabwe is Four Dollars!

Can you imagine? Four dollars would buy most of a fast food meal in the United States, perhaps a cup of designer coffee. In Zimbabwe it is enough to motivate boys to beat pregnant women with nail ridden planks and smash the skulls of old men into the earth, blending their blood with the rich red soil of this beautiful but anguished country.

To read the rest of this blog, visit The Huffington Post.

On a brighter note, here are the winners of the official Tapestries of Hope IndieGoGo raffle.

- Peter Johnson: Private Screening with Director
- Lorraine Hariton: 3 month free membership to Women's Independent Cinema
- Nancy Jamison: 3 month free membership to Women's Independent Cinema
- Adryenn Ashley: 3 month free membership to Women's Independent Cinema
- Lauren Kastanis: Chocolates from Seattle Chocolate Company
- Joy Elliot: Playstation 2

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In one collective pause-the World waits to stop the Atrocities in Zimbabwe!

WHY? I don't get it. Does any country have the courage to confront President Mugabe of Zimbabwe?

To read the rest of this blog, visit The Huffington Post.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Rumor has it that President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has agreed to a run-off election. The date that I have heard bantered about is April 19th. There are text messages flying across the continent and various groups ramping up to ensure Zimbabweans get out and vote the tyrant out of the office. My message to Zimbabweans: go back to the polls and vote! This man needs a clear and swift kick out the door!

The other rumor, though unsubstantiated, is that "Bob" is busy filling bags of currency as he raids the treasury. The suggestion is that he will leave the country. This would be great for Zimbabweans in many ways. Yet if he does this, there are major concerns that he will not leave a single Zimbabwe dollar for the country's recovery. This is when the global community, that includes The International Red Cross and the United Nations, must develop a plan to help this country become stabilized.

None of this will happen without some global pressure to get Mugabe out of office. This is the time when other African leaders must take a stand to support the will of the people and not stand mute in support of their comrade. Enough. How do we teach these countries to step up to assist the people of Zimbabwe?

There is widespread fear that the election will be rigged in a run off. I don't think it is going to happen. Too many people voted the man out of office. Too many people know and talk that they must have change in this county if the people of Zimbabwe are going to survive. When I talk about survival, its not "survival" you think of here in the United States; instead, Zimabwean's survival entails avoiding starvation and/or death. How will they stop the hemorrhaging of people over the borders?

Yesterday I was told that Mugabe only truly got 46 parliament seats instead of the 97 that are listed. As we all struggle for information and if this vote will again be rigged on the 19th, I know for sure one thing: There will be violence. The people of Zimbabwe have such pent up rage on how Mugabe has treated them that many want to force him to stay in the country, to make sure that he pays for his atrocities.

If Morgan Tsengarai becomes the new President of Zimbabwe, it is his plan to keep Mugabe in the country as well. His agenda will include having Mugabe pay for his atrocities, not only for the ruthless beating of himself but also for his close allies that were tortured and killed.

We are getting a lot of messages about Simba Makoni joining forces with Morgan...and this is truly good news. With Simba Makoni getting at least 8 percent of the vote (approximately) there are people who love him and trust him. We cannot forget how his candidacy split some of the key allies in the current administration and helped create the unstoppable rift. The idea of Morgan Tsengarai and Simba Makoni joining forces as a team brings excitement. Those two men can create a new beginning for this tyrant ravaged country.

Most importantly, some of those in exile are already talking about going "home". They are excited about the inevitable change in their country and the National Unity they feel is happening. They are excited about the loss of seats to ministers that harassed NGO's and women's group. The Minister of Women's affairs, Gender and Community Development, Oppah Muchinguri, was apparently trounced in the vote. This is good news to organizations who have sought assistance from the government on human rights abuses.

We are all watching the situation in Zimbabwe closely. If the dictator is truly going to fall, there needs to be quick and prolonged action. Now the international community must come together to help eradicate the AIDS epidemic, to provide food and medicine...and get the country planting crops. Things could change again, in the time it takes me to post this blog, but I still can't help but think there will be more than seeds being planted in this country soon.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

"Tapestries of Hope" DONATION RAFFLE!

Dear Tapestries of Hope Supporters!

“Tapestries of Hope” has teamed up with IndieGoGo to raise significant funds for the making of this important film.

We have some GREAT prizes in addition to VIP Perks if you donate by MAY 1 on INDIEGOGO.COM ( hope)

For all donations of $100.00 or more, you will be eligible to receive one of the five following prizes:
- 1 three-month membership (there are 3 of these available) to Women’s Independent Cinema (
- A brand new Play Station 2
- An assortment of Chocolates from Seattle Chocolate Company

For all donations of $500.00 or more, we will enter those names into an additional SPECIAL RAFFLE. The lucky winner will win a private screening for your friends and family with the director Michealene Risley, who will travel to your home with a DVD of the completed film in hand. There will be a Q and A session afterwards.

**The raffle drawings will take place once we've completed this round of funding. Anonymous donors will not be included in the raffle.

This is also a reminder that you can receive a tax deduction on your donation. However, you MUST let us know if you would like to receive this after you donate.

Please go to to donate and help us reach our goals.

Even if it’s 5 dollars, it will help tremendously. Please take the time.

Please forward this message to all friends, family, and co-workers who might also like to help.


The “Tapestries of Hope” Team

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

All Calm in Zimbabwe Before The Storm

The calm before the storm is a frighteningly familiar feeling for me. As a Midwest gal born and raised, I know that feeling down to my bones. It is the eerily quiet time period before a tornado touches down, before the chaos hits, before destruction visits. Right before that touchdown, the air is clear and crisp, there is an unnatural stillness. The squirrels have stopped playing hide and seek amongst the branches and the birds have been silenced. For those of us hiding in basements, our eyes glued to the television, we are enveloped in anxiety waiting for information on where the tornado will touch down.

Zimbabwe is in this place right now, thirteen million people holding their collective breathe, waiting for the results of the presidential election. The longer the wait, the more that anxiety spreads like a pre-cursor to blood-shed across the country. The only response to the collective waiting has been silence and more silence. I spoke to a friend in Borrowdale earlier today, she said "Everyone has been off the streets today. All of us are quiet and calm, but we know that must stay indoors and wait for the results."

There are people around the world holding their breath with you, Zimbabweans. You are not alone. There are many people everywhere committed to democracy that are fearful that you will not sit quietly through another rigged election. All of us are fearful of increased violence in a country that has been decimated by poor leadership.

On Sunday, I heard reports that people were celebrating in the streets. In fact, one journalist, Jan Raath wrote this for The Times, (UK) "We are on the knife edge now. There is little doubt in the minds of a very large slice of the population that Robert Mugabe was dealt a severe blow on Saturday. They laughed in the voting queues about how they were going to skewer the rooster (Mr. Mugabe) and roast him. They cast their votes and went home to await the result. The slack Sunday morning was interrupted repeatedly by cars hooting long and loud, with young men whistling and waving wide open palms. One crowd was singing: "Saddam is gone, and now it is Bob's turn."

But is it really Bob's turn? As Drew Barrymore voice rings in my ears from the movie ET I can hear her say, "What's happening?" And I wish I knew. One interesting aspect of this election is that Mugabe had agreed in advance to allow local districts to count and post results on site. To me this seems to make it harder to rig the elections district by district. On, one third of the vote counted puts Mugabe in second place, far behind Morgan Tsvangirai. So what is taking so long to get to the final results?

It has been over 48 hours since the polling sites have closed. Most people that I spoke with in Zimbabwe could care less which candidate gets in, as long as it is not President Robert Mugabe. One of three things will happen. The first is that Mugabe will state that there is a TIE and an election run off needs to happen. The second scenario is that he will give up his post, just after collects all of "his" money and exits Zimbabwe with his core alliance.

The third scenario, and the one that terrifies me the most, is Mugabe rigging the election and declaring his 6th term in office. No one can afford this scenario. Another sources in Zimbabwe said that tomorrow Mugabe has a planned meeting with the Army General and the head of the Police force. It scares me that this may happen, and would be devastating to Zimbabwe. Then again, I can't even begin to get inside the mind of Robert Mugabe. So I like the rest of the world, must wait.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Is Zimbabwe Heading Toward Great Change Or A Colossal Fall?

I have been eaten with anxiety as Zimbabwe's national election looms closer this March 29th. My mind is torn between the agonizing wait and the fear of the day's arrival. Some of us are terrified at the endless possibilities of violence and death that civil disobedience will bring. I fear the inevitable; I hope to be wrong. Yet, I am also roused by a still beating heart from the people who are caught in this drama; a people so dogged in their determination to survive such prolonged oppression. A people so determined to have a voice. Zimbabwe is a place one cannot help but love. It is a rich land of olive-colored rolling hills and exotic animals; a spirited populace that continues to be courageous and resilient. Zimbabweans inspire me. A group of individuals that collectively have survived more wreckage than our consumption addicted country could ever know.

It is a tiny spot on the planet infested with poverty, disease and corruption at the hands of an 84 year-old syphilitic man that has hoarded power beyond the expiration date. Even when the people of this country say NO to another term of Robert Mugabe, he refuses to allow a fair and free election.

President "Bob" is running for his 6th consecutive term in office. He controls the media, the army, the Central Intelligence and the police force. He oversees the bank system, the food supply and the distribution channels. There is nothing that this man has not tobacco stained with his endless greed and corruption. I have seen it with my own eyes. His reign of terror is so wide and so powerful, that it followed me into South Africa after my deportation from Zimbabwe.

Mugabe continues to stay in power through his maniacal use of fear- thought erasing, palm sweating, heart thumping fear. As the election draws ever closer, bribery, battery and bruises are every Zimbabweans one meal-a-day. The prevalence of fear has caused many families to leave the country until after the election. Some have had their lives threatened, others have decided on self-imposed exile, and the rest have given up and permanently moved to neighboring countries.

Like the Grinch on Christmas Eve, Mugabe flings presents at the very people he has hurled into poverty; people with so many stories, so few heard. Money drops from the sky to erase the tears from land gone barren and shriveled up crops. The Grinch's laugh echoes through the night as his cronies hoard the cash.

I am confused by Mugabe's last ditch efforts. Did he have a flicker of fear as he thought, "Could I lose this election"? Did he not print out enough phony ballets? Why is he wasting money when the results of the election are pre-determined? Will his tweaking of the constitution to station police at the polling stations hurt him?

The starvation I witnessed last august was on the brink of catastrophic with empty stores and an ever decreasing food supply. Seven months later, dog food has become a staple food. Last week a butcher got caught selling human meat at his store, under the guise of pig meat. Apparently the butcher had been killing Albino men and women and selling their meat. After hearing this story over the phone, I truly found it hard to believe. I cannot begin to understand that level of desperation or the barbaric action, so I am mute. I feel a colossal empathy and sadness for this beautiful country and the people who are driven to their knees. And I wonder, in this election, if someone hands you a bag of maize, would you choose another meal of rage?

There are real heroes among the people still living in Zimbabwe. The current opposition candidates are at the top of that heroic list: Simba Makoni, Langton Towungana and Morgan Tsvangirai. These men have put their personal lives at risk to create a different country. They know very well the danger that they welcome by listing their names on the ballot, by shaking someone's hand and saying "Vote for me".

There are other everyday heroes that the world will never know; human beings that will never make it to the front pages of a major newspaper even though they will have lost their lives standing up for what matters: The mother with six children who fights to be heard over screams of outrage at a systematic eradication of femininity though rape, abuse and genital mutilation. She remembers somewhere in the recesses of her mind, that women can still create change. Another hero is the father, who once witnessed the president as a savior and watched his steady decline into corruption. He refuses to continue to give such a man his vote. Or the idealist youth, excited about their future and volunteers to put a candidate's poster up on the streets. Their belief continues to be that change is possible even when they are beaten and thrown in prison. Their only sustenance is the tattered remains of the posters. These everyday champions risk arrest and physical abuse, and are often forced into submission, but hope still sputters.

I'm scared for our country too. We have many critical issue to deal with in the United States right now; Issues that need a good plan and solid execution to American's to feel we are back on track. We have limited resources, and we need to choose carefully where we focus our time and energy and money. We cannot afford to be the Global Problem Solver. Yet, if we are to continue to be a nation that shows global leadership, we must help less fortunate countries. Zimbabwe is one of those countries. Yet, the United States is clearly absent as this drama continues to unfold. I have to question our criteria in assisting other countries. Is our decision of assistance dependent on intersecting needs or are monetary gains are involved? Where are human rights issues in that evaluation process? Are human rights on American's list at all?

I can't stand the fact that the only countries in Zimbabwe to help create a fair and free election this weekend are Russia and China. Where are all the other African leaders? How can they hide as they bear the brunt of a mass exodus from Zimbabwe? Do they not understand how it taxes their own countries and creates more crime and poverty? Are their pockets lined so deeply that they cannot get up from their plush leather chairs to see the line of beggars on the sidewalk below?

I am done. The truth is, even writing doesn't comfort me now, or reduce my anxiety. I am mostly resigned to the outcome of Saturday's election and can't bear to read a newspaper this weekend.

I wish someone would accuse me of spreading enormous exaggerations about this rogue inhabited country. It might give me someone else o focus on; to yell and scream at during this agonizing wait. The problem with that scenario is that anyone calling me on gross exaggerations would be wrong. They would learn that my words only scratch the surface of the atrocities unfolding in Zimbabwe. The helplessness I feel is shallow compared to Zimbabweans who are trapped in a world not of their own making. American's absence in this unfolding tragedy is criminal.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

United Nations Speech

As most of you know, Tapestries director Michealene Risley was invited to speak and moderate a panel at the United Nations on "The Role and Responsibility of Men in Preventing Violence Against Women" last week. The panel went great and here is an excerpt from a message sent by Michealene to friends and supporters of the project:
I wanted to let you know how "incredible" the event at the United Nations was on Monday. The Secretary General of the United Nations has launched a global campaign to end violence against women and girls. It was inspiring to say the least...and hopeful.

Secondly, there is a chance that the landscape of rape and abuse in Zimbabwe can be changed. The current political situation in Zimbabwe right now, is at a critical juncture. For those of you interested, there is HOPE that the dictator, President Mugabe will be voted out, and Simba Makoni will be the new President. If fair and free elections will be held this can be possible.

The shift will begin to change the standard of living, and availability of food to all Zimbabweans. A change in leadership with also dramatically alter the level of violence against all human beings in this country. Anyone who is interested in helping spread the word, contact me directly. There are a number of ways to get involved.
Below is another picture from the event:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tapestries of Hope's Director Invited to Speak at United Nations

The following is the United Nations invitation Tapestries of Hope's Director Michealene Cristini Risley received recently:

Permanent Missions, NGOs and headquarters staff are cordially invited to attend an interactive panel on

The Role and Responsibility of Men in Preventing Violence Against Women

Monday, 25 February 1.15 pm
Conference Room 2, UN Secretariat Building

Over the past decade, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of men who are working hard to end all forms of violence against women throughout the world. To accelerate this momentum and create a critical mass, the United Nations Secretary-General will, as part of his multi-year campaign to end violence against women, enlist the support of men leaders in mobilizing men and boys for action.

Please join us in a dialogue with a survivor of violence, a government official and three men activists on the intrinsic contribution and responsibility of men in preventing violence against women in an inter-active panel.

Michealene Risley, women's advocate, author and award-winning documentarian

Marie Delva, a "face of courage"/survivor of violence who turned adversity into opportunity to help herself and other survivors in Haiti

Todd Minerson, Executive Director, White Ribbon Campaign - the largest effort in the world of men working to end violence against women

Captain Aimable Mushabe, a Rwandan military officer implementing measures to protect women against violence

Prateek Suman Awasthi, a young leader actively working with Indian youth and women to end violence against women

Kevin Powell, writer, author of seven books, including The Confessions of a Recovering Misogynist,and political activist involved in pro-feminist and anti-sexist work

For further information, please contact:

Patricia Cortes, Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), Tel.: 1 917 367 3197, Email:

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

#1 on YouTube

2007 was not an easy year - as a lot of supporters know - for the project. After a challenging pre-production schedule during which many who understood the subject matter and/or the geo-political dynamics in Zimbabwe recommended against doing the project - the crew ran into some 'difficulties' in Zimbabwe during production. As a result, all blogs written during the shoot had to be temporarily removed out of concern for safety of director Michealene C Risley & the crew!

We've come a long way since then and are very excited about where the project is headed in the next several weeks and months. Here is a re-cap at some of the key recent milestones:

- Huffington Post carried a series of blogs written by Michealene Risley describing the incidents during the shoot.

- The
Tapestries trailer (recently updated for better readability) is featured as the #1 video under "Film and Animation" Category on YouTube. Stay tuned for more teasers!

IndieGoGo, a new community site which connects filmmakers with their fan bases and supporters and launching at an exclusive Sundance 2008 event and party, will feature Tapestries as a launch partner. Other filmmakers signed up include Steven Starr (For Love or Water, 2008 Sundance selection), M dot Stange (We are the Strange, 2007 Sundance selection), and Chris Roberts (The Believer, 2003 Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winner).

- This blog recently won the New Communications Review’s ‘Award of Excellence’ due to the live blogs Michealene posted while in production in Zimbabwe.

- Our Facebook Group “Silent Bravery: Women of Africa” has close to 1,000 members and our continued collaborations include Stanford University to make headway on the social initiative leading up to the film's release.

- Keplers' bookstore in Menlo Park and La Belle Day Spa in Palo Alto are carrying a line of silver jewelry (also available online at that designer Janelle Gibson co-launched with Freshwater Haven (the non-profit side of Fresh Water Spigot) to support the project.

We look forward to your continued support!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Cinematical covers TAPESTRIES Trailer launch

Cinematical, the top blog covering independent film, makes a mention of the recent Tapestries trailer launch on YouTube. From the post by Kim Voynar:
While it's always fun to enjoy a big, effects-laden blockbuster or the latest rom-com at the theater, it's little films like this, driven by the filmmaker's passion for the project, that really speak to the dedication it takes to make a doc. like this.
Stay tuned for news and updates throughout the year! Contact us to get involved!

Other blog mentions about Tapestries trailer launch:

- George Karahalios' blog
- Srihari's blog
- TED Fellow Ethan Zuckerman's blog (I left my heart in Accra)
- AfricanLoft feature article