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Tapestries of Hope cover image

Tapestries of Hope 2010

Highly Recommended

Distributed by The Video Project, PO Box 411376, San Francisco, CA 94141-1376; 800-475-2638
Produced by Christopher Bankston, Susan Black, Anand Chandrasekaran, Michealene Cristini Risley, Ray Arthur Wang
Directed by Michealene Cristini Risley
DVD, color, 77 min.

College - Adult
African Studies, Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Sexual Abuse, Women’s Studies

Date Entered: 05/02/2011

Reviewed by Gloria Maxwell, Reference Librarian, Penn Valley Community College, Kansas City, MO

Upon meeting Betty Makoni and learning about her founding and work with the Girl Child Network, Michealene Cristini Risley embarked about producing and directing a documentary about this remarkable woman and her work to empower females in Zimbabwe. A persistent myth in this part of the world, one that is encouraged by the traditional healers in Zimbabwe, is that a man infected with HIV/AIDS can be cured by having sex with a virgin. Some victims are just young female babies. One of the victims featured in this documentary was only three years old and was infected with HIV/AIDS as a result of her sexual assault.

Michealene Cristini Risley’s powerful documentary is shocking, chilling, yet heartening by turns, showing the difference that Betty Makoni is making and how her work with the Girl Child Network is trying to counter the horrible sexual violence against women in Zimbabwe, generated by the promotion of a superstitious fallacy.

Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980 and has had no peace since 2000 when they came under the control of a dictator. The press is banned, the newspaper is strictly controlled, and people disappear if they cause trouble. Women are not supposed to consent to sex, meaning that sex is supposed to be forced on women. Under these difficult conditions it shouldn’t be surprising that the rape of virginal female children is not regulated or discouraged, especially with the promotion of being a cure for HIV/AIDS.

Most of the documentary follows Makoni as she moves among the girls who live with her as part of being in the Girl Child network. When abused girls first arrive, they are asked to write down what they want to say about what happened to them, or talk peer-to-peer. Makoni believes this is a way to empower them as they begin to heal. “Mr. Rescue Man” is one of her helpers and the one who goes out to rescue girls from really bad situations. The GCN (Girl Child Network) asks the victims what their needs are and how they can help them. Everything is “Is this okay with you?” so as to overcome the past abuse they experienced. Betty Makoni’s work is controversial and not accepted by most of the men in her community. Sadly, girls are more susceptible to HIV/AIDS than men.

The filmmaker and her crew were interrogated, arrested and deported from Zimbabwe as a result of filming and interviews related to this documentary. They had to smuggle the film out in order to bring this documentary to completion.

Subtitles accompany much of the dialogue to help with conveying what’s being said. Audio and video quality is good and accompanied by suitable background music.

This documentary is suitable for college and public library collections.

Tapestries of Hope is highly recommended, but contains graphic and disturbing references to sexual violence which may be unsettling to some viewers, especially younger than at the college level. Sr. High school use should be used with discretion.


  • 2010 Monaco Film Festival Special Mention for "Inspiration and Strong Message"
  • 2010 The Directors Guild of America, Director Finder Series
  • 2009 WIFTS Best Documentary
  • 2009 Honolulu International Film Festival – “Aloha Accolade” Award for Excellence in Filmmaking - Documentary
  • 2009 Accolade Film Awards 2009, Award of Merit
  • 2009 Louisville International Festival of Film, Best Documentary
  • 2009 The Indie Fest, Award of Excellence
  • 2008 Amnesty International’s Ginetta Sagan Award Women’s and Children’s Rights - Betty Makoni
  • 2007 Society for New Communications Research Media blog of the year