Felicia Middlebrooks’ award-winning Rwanda doc “Somebody’s Child” has first Chicago screening

WBBM news anchor and radio journalist Felicia Middlebrooks will screen her powerful, prize-winning 52-minute documentary, “Somebody’s Child: The Redemption of Rwanda” March 31, at Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema.

Producing the documentary “was a divine assignment,” Middlebrooks said while recalling the unexpected events that led her to record 44 hours on DVcam during two weeks in Rwanda in 2004.

“Somebody’s Child” chronicles why and how the genocide happened and the fate of survivors.

After winning “Best Documentary” at the 2005 New York Independent Film & Video Festival, the doc earned “Official Selection” titles at the 2005 Palm Beach and Brooklyn Arts Council International festivals.

“It has a good chance to be picked up by a major studio linked to 2004’s “Hotel Rwanda,” Middlebrooks said.

The road to Rwanda began in 2003 when a fellow bible study member asked Middlebrooks to MC an event at which Uganda’s first lady Janet Museveni would speak.

Museveni invited Middlebrooks and her bible study friend, “Hands of Hope” NPO president Vicky Wauterlek, to Uganda. Hearing they’d visit Rwanda, Middlebrooks realized it would be during the genocide’s 10th anniversary.

After a friend suggested she document her journey, things fell into place. “In the ?real world,’ it wouldn’t have worked,” she insisted.

TLN president Jerry Rose helped funded the budget and mentor Bill Kurtis explained the financial implications. “Miraculously, I had a full crew in less than three weeks.”

In Uganda, “extraordinary favors” continued. “We shot things we weren’t even supposed to see, like gacaca, (grass court) trials of those accused of genocide. The Rwandans were very cooperative once they got over their skepticism,” she said.

When she returned with her footage, David E . Simpson of Panacea Pictures, edited. He will return to Africa this summer to finish filming his 90-minute documentary, “Milking the Rhino,” to raise awareness of community-based wildlife conservation.

At a Rwanda screening in January, 2006 a group of parliamentarians and NGO leaders heralded “Somebody’s Child” story of hope as told in a way unlike any they’d seen.

“It’s very powerful. I know it was done for a greater purpose than just to be played in someone’s living room,” Middlebrooks said.

“I use the film to admonish people to expose themselves to many different news sources. I’m hoping people will start to respond to Zimbabwe and Darfur.”

Multi-honored Middlebrooks also has been asked to serve as a consultant for the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, as agents work to find human rights violators tied to the Rwandan tragedy.

She founded Salt Shaker Productions in 1996 and keeps a toehold in the Hollywood pool by maintaining a small studio in the old Warner Bros. lot.

Her next project, she said, “will be a polar opposite of this, but all of my future films will have a central theme of teaching.”

Middlebrooks will field questions after the screening.

The screening is sponsored by WITASWAN (Women in the Audience Supporting Women Artists Now) and is the third in WITASWAN’s annual series of events celebrating Women’s History Month.

Cosponsors are AAUW-Illinois, Association for Women Journalists-Chicago, Illinois Women’s Press Association and Women in Film/Chicago.

At 2828 N. Clark, 12:30-3 p.m. Tickets $20. RSVP www.films42.com/witaswan/march-07.asp. See www.saltshakerproductions.com/somebodyschild.html.