Sabotaging the saboteurs with art

My good friend, copywriter Leslye Wood, has been valued companion in the journey of making-sure-our-work-matters for about 12 years.  Leslye’s path took her Nigeria, and she has spent the last several years committed to researching, writing, promoting, negotiating, pushing, and doing everything she can to support the documentary film, Sweet Crude.

Sweet Crude is the story of the Niger Delta. It’s a story of vast oil wealth and abject poverty. Of greed and corruption. Of the failure of nonviolent protest to right injustice and the dismaying success of militancy to bring attention to the crisis.

The film is finally finished and premiered last Saturday (April 4) at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina.

But this story is about the poster in the midst of the journey.


On April 18, the crew walked out of military prison – but their footage remained behind.  The Nigerian government intended to sabotage Sweet Crude and suppress the truth about the Niger Delta, and they failed.

But the detainment did cost the film crew thousands of dollars, at a time when every dollar was needed.

The answer was in art, of course.

In the first moments of the detainment, crew member Tammi Sims used her cell phone to call Leslye Wood in Seattle. For the next seven hours, Tammi managed to surreptitiously send a steady stream of text messages. By the time the JTF took Tammi’s phone, Leslye knew enough about the situation to have already begun critical release efforts.

The Sweet Crude team developed and sold a poster, created from the actual text messages Tammi and Leslye exchanged – on the day the crew were captured and just before they boarded the plane home to Seattle a week later.  The  18″ x24″ posters were designed by Seattle graphic artist Gabriel Stromberg, and  hand painted and silk screened on archival stock. They’re powerful and arresting (pun intended), and yes, I have one.

This is what I mean by visual voice. Literally.

This is my favorite line (the poster came with the full text attached to the back):

Friday 8:17 am (US) Leslye: Sending huge love. Big fat faith. Impenetrable strength. I am right with you in spirit.

Leslye described the Full Frame premiere to be as amazing and gratifying. She was thrilled that the audience was so engaged, and responding exactly as they had hoped and imagined they might. The audience gave the film a standing ovation, and equally (perhaps more) important, they stayed engaged, asking smart, thoughtful questions during the Q&A. Leslye is proud of the film, and I am so proud to be her friend.

Sweet Crude’s fund raising efforts continue. If you are in the Seattle area, check out RAISE IT! SWEET CRUDE FREEDOM MIX BENEFIT CONCERT, April 15, 2009,  The Triple Door, Seattle, WA.

For more information about the concert and Sweet Crude, visit


3 Responses to “Sabotaging the saboteurs with art”

  1. 1 andrea April 13, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Thanks so much much for posting this! The poster is terrific and very moving. I can’t wait to see the film…

  2. 2 janice cadwell April 14, 2009 at 12:09 am

    How do we get one of these posters?

  3. 3 Leslye Wood April 14, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    For more info on the posters, please go to

    Thanks for the great article, Kim!

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