Kelly Sullivan/The AS Review

The community-driven Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival is celebrating its eleventh year of presenting films for the education and advocacy of global human rights issues starting Thursday, Feb. 17.

The films will cover a wide variety of social conflicts, said anthropology professor James Loucky. Each film explores critical issues and proposes ways that the global community can better respond to those in need.

“This year there is a really incredible lineup,” Loucky said. The event has gained notoriety over the years, and is comparable in quality to any national film festival, he said.

This will be Loucky’s seventh year participating in the BHRFF. His first year, he was a speaker after one of the films, and has been on the community-staffed festival committee ever since.

This year Loucky will be speaking after “Which Way Home,” a film documenting the solitary journeys of child immigrants on their way to the U.S. The film won the 2010 Emmy Award for Outstanding Informational Programming and is an Academy Award nominee for Best Feature Documentary.

Loucky said one of the great aspects of the BHRFF is its facilitation of personal involvement in the issues being presented. Community members or organizations that directly deal with each topic, or speakers who have a direct link to the film’s production, participate in discussions and offer their own experiences after the screenings. Local organizations set up tables for anyone looking to develop an active role in an issue after they see the films.

BHRFF committee member Ross Marquardt said there are a few movies to look out for this year. “The Power of the Powerless,” a film about the 1989 Czechoslovakian revolution that overthrew an oppressive communist government, will be playing in the Fairhaven College auditorium on Feb. 19. After the movie, the producer and director of the documentary will discuss the making of the film.

On Feb. 20, “Enemies of the People” will play in the Fairhaven Auditorium. The documentary is about the brutal Khmer Rouge regime and the Cambodian killing fields. The film is unique because it has the first recorded testimonies by the leaders who perpetuated the exterminations.

On Feb. 23, “Poto Mitan,” a documentary about the exploitation and rights violations of Haitian women workers will also play in the Fairhaven Auditorium. The film will be followed by a lecture and discussion led by Dominican human rights activist Solange Pierre. She has been nicknamed in the Caribbean as “our Mandela,” Marquardt said.

Volunteer Coordinator Alice Bremner said the festival’s opening film will play at the Pickford Film Center on Feb.17. The film, “Budrus,” is an inspiring movie about what a community can accomplish when they band together.

The documentary chronicles the peaceful movement of Palestinian and Israeli neighbors trying to save their village which is under the threat of destruction by Israel’s Separation Barrier, a wall dividing the State of Israel from the West Bank. The film will be followed with a discussion facilitated by Bellingham lawyer Cat Zavis.

Bremner said that each film goes through a critical process before it is chosen for the festival. Members of the BHRFF committee viewed between 25 and 40 films before they chose the films that will appear in this year’s festival.

Many of the chosen films have 2009 or 2010 release dates, and cover current topics of global conflict, as well as long-standing social issues. After each film, comment sheets will be available for viewers to evaluate the quality of the screening’s overall presentation.

All of the movies are free to the public. Venues include the Fairhaven Auditorium, Pickford Film Center, Bellingham Technical College, Sehome High School, Squalicum High School and Lummi Youth Academy.

Bremner said the festival committee is still looking for volunteers to help set up each venue during the festival. She recommends contacting bellinghamhrff@gmail.com to volunteer.

For a full schedule and more information, check out bhrff.webs.com.