28 September 2010

Filmmaker tells all on Facebook

Michealene Risley was set free from jail with the help of facebook. Now she will tell her story in an online interview with Facebook Live.


First, Facebook helped free filmmaker Michealene Risley from an African jail. Now, the online social networking service is providing a global stage for her Tapestries of Hope documentary spotlighting the tragic consequences of a myth that sex with a virgin cures Aids.

Risley will tell her story in an interview streamed online at Facebook Live and field questions sent in over the internet by any of the social network's more than 500 million members worldwide.

"Facebook has been a big partner since they saved my life," Risley said.

Risley said she was filming in Zimbabwe in 2007, with permission from the ministry of information, when she was arrested.

Worries about project

The authorities were evidently worried about the film project, which was inspired by the work of human rights activist Betty Makoni and the Girl Child Network in Zimbabwe.

Risley said she was jailed and interrogated, with the questions strangely more oriented toward US life than the documentary project.

A producer from the documentary team posted word on Facebook that Risley was in custody and her future uncertain.

A news reporter who had been following the team on Facebook alerted a contact in the US government who apparently reached out to officials in Zimbabwe and helped secure Risley's release.

Documentary completed

Risley and her team returned to the US and the documentary was completed early 2010.

Risley's appearance at the Facebook Live studio at the firm's headquarters in Palo Alto, California, will take place just hours before Tapestries of Hope makes its debut in more than 100 US theatres.

Private meeting

After her online chat with Facebook members, Risley is to speak privately to employees at the service.

Marian Heath, who works on policy and safety initiatives at Facebook, described the movie as "very powerful".

"It's become common for someone to find a long-lost friend, former love or missing pet on Facebook but this is the first time we heard of Facebook getting someone released from jail," Heath said.

"We thought it would interest Facebook employees to know that what they are working on can make a real difference to people in the world."

(Sapa, September 2010)


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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