Monday, February 2, 2015

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more...*"

Oh, dear William, here we are again. "the blast of war blows in our ears..." and so we "...imitate the action of the tiger.” or else we'll "close the wall up with our...dead"* weight! I've been at this long enough to know that this might just be another unsuccessful skirmish but what's a veteran of the weight wars to do?

The last time I wrote in this "journal," some nearly 6 years now, I was focused on an entirely different concern: the safe return of my eldest son from captivity in Nigeria and the subsequent news on fate of the film that put him in harms way. That was a different sort of war, one of mostly words--and tears and prayers. But that crisis is behind us now; he is safely ensconced in the democracy of the new world and not, luckily, in any imminent danger of being detained except perhaps by his 4-year-old son.

No, this is a battle of a different sort; the battle to free the more slender version of me from the captivity of this prison of obesity. I know I'm still in there somewhere and I'm trying once again, as Shakespeare admonishes me, to "Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage..."*

And so, this time I am trying a version of a diet, in which I follow a strict protocol of what to eat (easier than listing what not to eat!) and take natural supplements including HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) drops. Apparently you can get the HCG in an injection (ouch!) but I personally like the play on words provided by "drops." As in, I plan to "drop" enough "drops" so that I "drop" the fat/pounds/weight before I "drop!" I know, I've read the stuff on the drops--the good and the bad--and frankly, the truth is that like King Henry V, I'm desperate and will try just about anything as long as I lose weight in so doing.

The first two days of the "diet" (Phase 1) the soldier is supposed to stuff herself, primarily with carbs, primarily to store up stores for the body to retrieve as on day 3 (Phase 2) the rations will cut dramatically. We are even told we should plan to gain significant amounts of weight in those first 2 days (and not to worry). Can I just say, I stuffed myself and gained a grand total of 1 (one) pound?! (also, not to worry) I wonder what this means? But while I wonder, I have to confess that as in most human endeavors (it seems to me anyway) the breathless anticipation of actually having to eat (No one heretofore has ever told me I MUST eat. I'm not sure why...) far exceeded the banal activity of actually doing so. I found myself not wanting to eat, to actually being nauseated by the very thought of having to stuff more food into my satiated stomach.  And this was not because of the culinary options! I made sure to provide myself with fattening foods that I love (apparently a lot) and all the alcohol I could consume safely. And it all Made. Me. Sick. 

What evil cunning and deceit is this, designed to make me nearly desperate to abandon all my favorite foods and drinks so that I want only the meager and plain foods of this diet! I couldn't wait for my "loading" days to be over! And so, they are. And so begins Phase 2.  Ah, chicken breasts, garlic and spinach I love thee!

*William Shakespeare, Henry V"

Monday, March 16, 2009

Update on Sweet Crude

Dear Diary: This just in from Leslye:

Dear Friends of Sweet Crude:

We have some happy announcements to share with you.


We’re thrilled to announce the Sweet Crude world premiere! After years of hard work, we are – as we speak – bringing the film over the finish line.

We will be at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, which runs from April 2nd through April 5th in Durham, NC. We are excited to have the primo Saturday night screening time, April 4th. Sweet Crude is one of 55 documentaries selected from more than 1200 submissions for the New Docs program. Learn more about the festival at If you can swing it, we would love to see you there.

There will be more festivals – and we’ll pass along the details as soon as we know them.


Hard to believe it’s been a year since we were writing to you about the crew’s detainment in the Niger Delta. In April 2008, Sandy Cioffi and crew members Sean Porter, Tammi Sims and Cliff Worsham returned to the Niger Delta to finish the film. While on their way to a shoot, they and their Nigerian guide Joel Bisina were picked up on the waterways by the Nigerian military. They were held in military prison and interrogated for a week. Thanks to a huge effort by many friends, family, organizations and elected officials who brought pressure on the Nigerian government, they were released. But their footage was confiscated for good. On their way to prison, during a terrifying truck ride under armed guard, music helped the crew make it through the night. They created a spontaneous iPod playlist and the powerful songs gave them comfort and hope.

We’ve planned a one-of-a-kind evening around the songs that made the difference that night. The Sweet Crude Freedom Mix will be performed by a fabulous group of singer/songwriters to help raise finishing funds for the film.

You’re cordially invited to RAISE IT. Your glass. Your voice. Your spirits. Your awareness. Cold hard cash.

The concert will feature local faves and out-of-town friends:

The Playlist Singers: Karen Pernick, Jen Todd, Mel Watson, Erin McKeown, Karyn Schwartz, Zoƫ Lewis, Jennifer Sutherland

The Playlist Band: Jen Todd, Mel Watson, Erin McKeown, Pam Barger, Barbara Marino, Kate Wolf

Plus special surprise guests!

April 15th, 2009

Two shows: 6:00pm and 9:00pm

The Triple Door, Seattle

Suggested donation: $30 - $1,000

Purchase online at or call 206.838.4333

More info here.

This will be an unforgettable show. Please join us if you can!

From all of us at Sweet Crude, thanks so much for your interest and support.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Detainees Absolved!!

Dear Diary:
From "The Vanguard" newspaper, December 1, 2008:

Court declares Bisina’s arrest by JTF unlawful E-mail
Written by Emma Amaize
Monday, 01 December 2008

A Federal High Court sitting in Benin City, Edo State, last Friday, declared the arrest, on April 12, of a Nigerian, Mr. Joel Bisina and three American filmmakers who were in Nigeria to shoot a documentary, entitled, “Sweet Crude” by men of the Joint Military Taskforce (JTF) as illegal and a breach of the constitution, and awarded N5 million damages against the Federal Government.

Mr. Bisina, a human rights activist and his foreign guests were whisked to Abuja by road the same day they were arrested and they spent about six days in the custody of the State Security Service (SSS) before they were released.

On his release, Bisina approached the Federal High Court through his counsel, Dr. Bello Orubebe, praying for declarations that his arrest, detention and harassment without access to his counsel and medical attention breached his fundamental human rights and asked for a cumulative damages of N15 million.

The respondents were the Attorney General of the Federation, the Chief of Defence Staff, Inspector General of Police, Commander of the Joint Military Task Force and the State Security Services.

The presiding judge, Justice M. B. Idris in his judgment granted all the prayers by the plaintiff and held that the arrest and detention of Bisina was illegal, unconstitutional and null and void, adding that the denial of access to medical personnel in itself also constitute breach of fundamental human rights.

Idris also declared as unconstitutional the demand for security pass by the military in the Niger- Delta waterways and ordered the defendants to tender unreserved public apology to the plaintiff and also pay him a compensation for general damages to the tune of N5 million.

Orubebe, counsel to the plaintiff speaking to reporters, described the judgment as an erudite, well written judgment, noting that it was not just a landmark judgment but that it had taken human right judgment and practice to the 21st century.

The Federal Government had earlier lost a preliminary objection in which it challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter because of the non-compliance by the applicant with the provisions of Orders 2 rule 1(4) and Order 1 rule 2(3) of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 1979.

But counsel to the applicant “urged the court to hold that the application is properly before the court, and that where there is a right, there is a remedy”, relying on the case of Omoyinwa Vs Ogubiju (2003).
Idris in his ruling had held that “the applicant’s application is properly before this court…the objection taken by the 1st respondent has no merit and it is accordingly dismissed. No order as to cost.”

Sweet Crude the Movie is in Trouble!

Dear Friends of Sweet Crude:

We got some great news last week: our Nigerian-American colleague Joel Bisina, who was detained with the crew in April, won his suit against the Nigerian government for unlawful imprisonment. You can read about it at This is a strong judgment for human rights. We are thrilled for Joel.

Unfortunately, being Americans, the rest of the crew have no legal recourse for damages. Which is why we’re counting on you.

We’ve only sold one-tenth of the posters we need to put Sweet Crude back on the solid footing necessary to finish the film. Right now we’re facing the heartbreaking possibility that we won’t be able to meet our final post-production costs.

If it’s within your means, PLEASE help. It’s quick, easy and urgently needed (and the poster is very cool!). Go to

If you can’t buy a poster yourself, please help by spreading the word widely and consider making a smaller donation at

Over the last two years and especially during our detainment, so many of you asked what you could do to help. This is the what. Now’s the time. We really need you.

Thanks so much.
Sandy Cioffi, Filmmaker

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Latest With Sweet Crude

Dear Friends of Sweet Crude:

 Heartfelt thanks for your support
 We need your help urgently (by December 5th)
 There’s a fabulous piece of art in it for you
 Read on for the details
 Or trust me and go directly to
 Check back between now and the 5th to see how we’re doing

As the holidays roll around, I’m thinking, what a year! It’s been exactly seven months since Cliff, Joel, Sean, Tammi and I walked out of Nigerian military prison. To all of you who helped secure our release, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

We are so grateful to be back home and back to our lives. The detainment was tough on us, as you can imagine (of course not anywhere near as tough as things are for the people who live in the Niger Delta). What you might not know is the huge financial hit we took as a result of our imprisonment and the footage confiscated by the Nigerian SSS.

The Nigerian government tried their best to sabotage Sweet Crude in the hopes they could continue to suppress the truth about the Niger Delta. We can’t let them win.

I returned in April more determined than ever to finish this film. But we have a hole to dig out of to the tune of $30,000.

As much as I have and will continue to welcome your enthusiastic support, in this moment it’s money we need. I realize it’s not a great time to ask, given the current economic mess. But hey, at least this investment will yield you a beautiful piece of art instead of a loss.

For just $100, you’ll get to take a stand for journalistic freedom AND get a piece of Sweet Crude history.

We’ve created a custom designed, limited edition, hand printed Sabotage poster from the actual text messages exchanged between Nigeria and Seattle in the early hours of the detainment. More about this amazing piece here.

This is a quick hit fundraiser. On December 5th, we’ll print as many posters as we have orders for. Why December 5th? (Scroll down to find out.)

So don’t hit snooze. Get the details and place your order right now at

I realize $100 may not be possible for everyone. If that’s the case, consider chipping in with some friends. What a great reason for a party, each time you pass the poster on to the next person to enjoy for awhile. On the other hand, if you can afford more than $100, I hope you’ll buy lots of posters (great gifts) or make a larger donation here.

Please forward this email as far and wide as you can.

Many thanks,
Sandy Cioffi, Filmmaker

P.S. Apologies if you get this email more than once – we’re using multiple lists to make sure we reach everyone we know.

Why December 5th?
December 5th 2008 is the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. So what does this have to do with Sweet Crude? Well, you might know that John D. Rockefeller lobbied hard for the 18th Amendment. But what few people know is why. Teetotaling aside, according to some reports, John D. was really after Prohibition rather than Temperance, thereby shutting down the ethyl alcohol our ingenious and frugal forebears were distilling to fuel their vehicles. How else would Standard Oil, recently stripped of its monopoly, continue to capitalize on the burgeoning automobile industry? So now you know the rest of the story – or at least the theory of some theorists out there. We needed a deadline for our fundraiser and thought it fitting to commemorate this little known chapter in the annals of oil profiteering (and oil profiteering disguised as a religious crusade, at that).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

July 22, 2008

Dear Diary:
Sorry for the long delay but here's an update:

Dear Friends of Sweet Crude Movie:

What music would you pick to keep it together under the most terrifying of circumstances? Find out what songs got the Sweet Crude crew through a horrific night ride under armed guard during their detainment in Nigeria. Filmmaker Sandy Cioffi was interviewed recently by KUOW about the playlist. Listen to the interview here. (Sandy is 34 minutes into the Sound Focus broadcast.) You can also find the link at

On other fronts: We are deep in editing, pedaling like mad to finish the film by the Sundance festival deadline. We are scheduling some fundraisers. And still doing what we can to call for third-party monitored negotiations to resolve the deteriorating situation in the Niger Delta.

More news when we have it.

As always, many thanks for your interest and support.

Friday, May 23, 2008

May 23, 2008

Dear Diary:
More exciting press for Sweet Crude! Check this out:

Dear Friends of Sweet Crude:

Just a quick note to let you know that CNN International’s Inside Africa program this week features two segments about the Niger Delta, one of them about Sweet Crude!

Check out the program descriptions at -- the third and fourth stories in the “read” tab. Beginning on Wednesday, you should be able to access videos in the “video” tab.

Inside Africa airs in limited markets in the U.S. We are told that Comcast and Time Warner cable carry it and that this week’s show will air at 12:30 pm Saturday, May 24th. We are unable to find it in any tv listings – it’s possible it airs inside another CNN show. We hope you can find it in your location.

If you are outside the U.S., you should have better luck. Inside Africa airs widely in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia. Check the Inside Africa web site mentioned above for schedules.

One more thing: A couple of days ago, we told you about the Seattle Times editorial and blog entry. There’s a place for you to comment on the story here: If a bunch of us say thanks for the story or offer some thoughts, the Times will know this is an issue people care about and one they should continue to cover. So we hope you will take a minute to do this.

As always, thanks so much for your interest and support