Documentary on missing children premiers in Cleveland
By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent
A battered neon flyer flickers in the wind trying to escape the metal clip keeping it a hostage of the wooden pole. On it is a picture of a young girl—Georgina DeJesús, affectionately known as Gina.
She loved to dance, listened to hip-hop, enjoyed rollerblading and ice-skating. A picky eater, she loved mashed potatoes, fried chicken and corn. Gina has been missing since April 2, 2004. The 14-year old was walking home from school and disappeared 30 blocks from her house.
All investigations run cold at the intersections of W. 105th and Lorain but for her parents, Felix DeJesús and Nancy Ruiz, the search for their youngest child is still on five years and counting.
“She’s still alive,” says Gina’s mother. “I don’t feel empty inside, so I know she’s still here.” There are surreal incidents that bond mother and daughter. Ruiz now has frequent nosebleeds like Gina, and dreams of walking past the school grounds and waving to her daughter.
“I went through false labor, so I know my daughter has already given birth,” Ruiz said. She believes her daughter has been smuggled out of the country by human sex traffickers. “I told the FBI she was sold to the highest bidder,” Ruiz said.
The DeJesús are keeping their faith alive and hope to be reunited with their daughter.
So when film producer Rubén Reyes approached them to produce a documentary on missing children using Gina as the lead they gladly shared the pain of losing their daughter in hopes of igniting a sense of community responsibility for the safety of children everywhere. Reyes said as a father he can imagine the angst parents go through and he wanted the documentary to capture the loss and how it can be prevented.
Reyes formed IVM Group Productions LLC and gathered a Cleveland team to produce the documentary: “Where is Gina? A look at missing children” set to premiere in October 2009. Dates and locations are still pending but Phillip Deal, Executive Vice President of IVM, said the group intends to generate a lot of attention in Cleveland and spotlight an important issue that can never be reported on enough.
Deal said the documentary will be a great teaching tool for schools and wants to ultimately premiere it on a national level. General Manager, Timothy White describes the film as a ‘labor of love’ funded by sponsors and relying on talented volunteers for acting, stage, script and post-production.
Any proceeds made from the film will be donated to the DeJesús family and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Reyes hopes the documentary will create awareness and launch a campaign to create a NCMEC Cleveland office.
Between April and June 2005 NCMEC opened 86,494 missing children cases in the state of Ohio alone, while 96 percent were recovered 3,020 are still missing.
White said the documentary is intended to ask tough questions: “One child is one too many, why aren’t more people getting involved? How important is one child to you?”
DeJesús plays himself in the reenactment of the day his daughter disappeared and his performance left a deep impact on everyone involved in the documentary. Especially 14 year-old Jessica Glover whose striking resemblance to Gina cast her in the main role.
“I felt obligated to play this part the more I learned about her story,” Glover said. She hopes the documentary strikes a chord within people and motivates them to be aware of their surroundings and look out for one another.
“There are people out there who just plain don’t care and that lack of regard gave me the drive to be a part of this,” Glover said. She said the documentary has given her a pedestal to be a spokesperson on the issue and plans to use the limelight to get her peers talking about the issue and become more grateful for their lives. “All my grievances are nothing compared to what her family has gone through,” said Glover.
Ruiz hosts a vigil on Gina’s birthday every year and says the number of people attending is dwindling. She reminds parents to take at least five minutes each day to talk to their children, share affection and get to know them, and without for the neighborhood kids too. “If you are at home sit on your porch and watch kids as they come home from school and make sure they are safe,” Ruiz said.
Since Gina’s disappearance the community has created safe houses identified with green tags marked 9/11. “If a child feels threatened they can run to these houses and seek help,” she said. Ruiz also urges parents to update their child’s identification cards.
Adrick Chamon Barnes, IVM President wrote the script for the documentary and said the anguish he felt from the parents was overwhelming. “There is no closure, it’s just day after day of stress and wondering,” Barnes said.
He said with this documentary IVM is putting a stamp on Cleveland and will draw attention back to the city’s thriving art scene and hidden talent. “Safety begins at home, teach your children not to be so trusting,” he said.
Ruiz said for Gina that wasn’t enough: “Somebody has to have seen something.” She estimates the family flooded Cleveland with more than 20,000 flyers and she’s watched as people take one then callously crumble it and throw it in the trash. She now hands out flyers asking; “If this was your child, what would you do?”
For more information on the documentary call 216.618.1429
And visit http://www.missingkids.com for a complete list of missing children.