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Human rights film festival coming to Bellingham Feb. 20

By Chase Hilden

Starting on Feb. 20, Bellingham is hosting its 20th annual human rights film festival.

The Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival has a wide selection of films that pertain to both human and environmental rights. With 23 films being shown around the city this year alone, there will be plenty to see for those inclined.

“The whole festival is run by donors and we do have people from the community that are apart of local nonprofits and organizations that are doing amazing work,” Devon Sherwood, a member of Western’s Amnesty International club who is working with the film festival this year, said.

There are 12 locations to see one of the many films playing at the festival.

The closest locations for Western students are in the Fairhaven College Auditorium and in Academic West 204. There are many other locations such as Bellingham Technical College, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham High School and Sehome High School.

For the first and last days of the festival, there will be showings of select films at the Pickford Film Center.

“The Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival is programmed independently of the Pickford,”  Lindsey Gerhard, marketing manager of the Pickford Film Center, said.

All the films are free to see, even at the Pickford, with a suggested donation to the film festival of a new, clean pair of socks for local homeless people.

James Loucky, a professor at Western in the Anthropology Department has been helping with the film festival since it started in 2000. He started helping with the festival by giving talks on children’s rights and child advocacy after the showing of films related to those topics.

The festival isn’t just a space to only showcase films about human and environmental rights. After every film, there is an extended discussion.

“We have a lot of different talks,” Sherwood said. “Some of the directors are coming or Skyping in or we have local experts coming in to facilitate those discussions and a few of the clubs from Western are doing it too. So it's going to be an extension, not necessarily a direct conversation about what happened in the film. More of what's happening now and a continuation of how people can get involved.”

The festival does not focus on one issue, it offers an expansive array of local and international problems.

“Often we have about half and half most years,” Loucky said, referring to national and international issues. “It looks like this time we have more dealing with the U.S.”

If you are interested in seeing films from previous years or can’t make it to a certain showing, over 250 films from the past 20 years of the festival are available in the libraries at Western and in the local Bellingham libraries.

“Our idea is don’t just come to watch a film for two hours,” Loucky said. “We want people to get involved and we have plenty of issues to solve. Awareness is the key and then from that, you can analyze and work towards activism.”

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