“Hearts of Courage” Documentary Supports Rwanda

Michael Fasciano is a filmmaker and media strategist who recently completed his latest documentary, Hearts of Courage.  The short film follows the non-profit medical group, Team Heart, covering their mission and annual surgical trip to Rwanda.  To support Team Heart, Frontrunner is hosting a fundraiser, where readers can donate here. We caught up with Fasciano to discuss the film, his connection to Team Heart and Rwanda, and share notes on the creative process.


If strep throat goes untreated it expands into the heart and becomes Rheumatic Heart Disease.  Team Heart’s mission is to address and prevent this disease.   The group travels to King Faisal Hospital in Kigali, Rwanda annually to operate on 16 patients and teach cardiac medicine.  The entire staff of medical doctors, nurses and administrative professionals volunteer their time and pay their own way.  The long-term vision is to establish a cardiac center to serve East Africa.

How did you become involved with the organization?

Early in my film career I worked as freelance journalist for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), covering a development initiative that was launched in Kigali in 2006.  It was during this trip that I discovered my creative attraction to human stories that address global issues.  When I met Chip and Ceeya Bolman (founders of Team Heart), we had an immediate connection.  I listened as they described the work they were doing and knew there was a powerful, highly emotional story to capture through a multi-media approach.

How did you approach the storytelling from a production standpoint?

As a documentary filmmaker, in the field I’ve always approached production with the leanest possible solution.  This has given rise to what might be termed “backpack journalism.”  Generally speaking, this approach would encompass 1-2 media professionals producing, shooting and editing everything they create, often times on-the-fly and remotely.

The first time I traveled to Rwanda, my colleague Edward Symes and I returned with 120 hours of video.  While it makes for a rich set of options in post, it’s also a challenge simply to process that much material.  For this project with Team Heart I knew that my production focus had to be efficiency.  I shot all of the media for this film on the Canon 60D, which comprised of about 10-12 hours of interviews, 3-5 hours of b-roll and still photography as the primary visual details.  Editing was a whole bunch of index cards, FCP and lots of coffee.  Ezra Kwizera (Rwandan musician) and Andy Bullington (soundtrack composer) provided gorgeous music to support the pacing of this story.

How will the film be promoted?

Right now I’m setting up screenings with Digitas and Sony.  I’m also entering the film into a set of festivals.  From a promotional standpoint, I’ve created a trailer of the film that will be distributed as native advertising across Nativo Media Network, Outbrain, StumbleUpon and TheChannelFactory.

What do you hope will come of people seeing this piece?

My aim for each screening and online view of this film online is to encourage folks to support a fundraiser on Crowdrise.com/TeamHeartRwanda , which is raising money for the organization.  Team Heart faces a significant financial challenge for each trip to support medical supplies, equipment, and shipping.

What’s next for Team Heart?

Team Heart just completed it’s 6th annual trip out of an initial commitment of 10-12 trips.  So the organization is roughly at the half-way mark in terms of establishing a cardiac medical program at King Faisal Hospital in Kigali, Rwanda.  The long term vision is to raise money to build a cardiac medical center to serve East Africa.

To watch Hearts of Courage in its entirety, click here.

Connect with Michael Fasciano on Twitter:  @Fasciano, #HeartsOfCourage, #TeamHeartRwanda

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