For 12 years, the Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival has provided the community with hard-hitting films and documentaries dealing with social, global and environmental issues. This year is no different. You may never look at chocolate, your cell phone, food, the justice system or coal the same way again.

The 2012 Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival is a 10 day event that will kick off at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16, at the Pickford Film Center on 1318 Bay St., and conclude in the evening on Saturday Feb. 25, at the Fairhaven College auditorium. All 21 films shown this year will be free to the public.

“The films that we have lined up for this year highlight a lot of really important human rights issues that people don’t always hear about or have a lot of access to information about,” BHRFF volunteer Emily Flory said. “It really raises awareness and lets people sort of know what’s going on outside of Bellingham.”

Fairhaven World Issues Coordinator Shirley Osterhaus said that although all the films deal with diverse issues such as child labor, immigration and domestic violence, they are all relevant issues in a global and local sense and are all interconnected in some way.

Western anthropology professor James Loucky said that there are three genres that encompass a good amount of the subject matter in the films this year: energy, food and contamination, and corporate responsibility.

“There are films in this that pertain to virtually every class on campus,” Loucky said. “Any major, any class, I’d think students would be able to go to their professors and say, ‘Hey did you hear about this film?’ And can we talk about it in class. We get really excited about how people make those connections.”

BHRFF’s all-volunteer committee of community members chose some of the films for this year’s festival because of their relevance to issues going on in Bellingham. Two films, “Dirty Business” and “Power Paths,” deal with the implications and human impact of mining and using coal.

“It gives you a lot of information that is absolutely critical when we are debating what we are going to do about our coal and the coal trains and the terminal,” Loucky said. “That’s a local connection certainly.”

“Blood in the Mobile” and “The Dark Side of Chocolate” provide insights to the unsavory situations in which some of our more common consumer products, such as chocolate and cell phones, originate from, the unethical labor practices involved in the process as well as the producing of them.

“The human rights are very broad,” Loucky said. “They involve the health of our earth. They involve people in other places that we’ve never heard about but who contribute to our well-being through products that they grow or make or through the labor that they provide us.”

The education provided by the Film Festival expands beyond the big screen. For most films, facilitators are invited to table during the movie and conclude the film with a discussion on the topic.

The facilitators have expertise on the issue they are presenting and are usually either community or university-based organizations.

Throughout its 10 day period, the film festival has many showings at different locations. While most take place in the Fairhaven auditorium, the Festival also shows at the Pickford Film Center, Sehome High School, Bellingham High School and Northwest Indian College.

A program with all show times can be found at The Film Festival’s website also provides a list of every movie shown in the past 12 years, as well as information on which local library has the film.

“We’re just so proud of [the film festival] because it’s so grassroots, so community-based and so community-supported,” Osterhaus said. “We just want it to be a powerful educational experience and hopefully move some people to take action.”

The film festival runs from Feb. 16 through Feb. 25. Twenty-one films are part of this year’s festival and all are free to the public. Shirley Osterhaus, Fairhaven World Issues coordinator, and James Loucky, Western anthropology professor, weigh in on some festival highlights.

Shirley Osterhaus:
“Crime After Crime”
[The film]] is about domestic violence and how women have been accused of killingtheir husbands because of having been in a domestic violence situation and imprisoned.
We will have the domestic violence and sexual awareness group in the community and here on campus invited to table there and invited to give a few words before the film starts and say that we are a local group that you can become involved in if this is an issue that you’d want to pursue.

“The Harvest”
[A film] which is on the life of migrant children and families here in the united states and how many children in this country are working in the fields in parts of the us and so we’re going to have the local organization called community to community, which is in town working with a lot of migrant families. They will have a table and introduce themselves as to what it is with the work that they do.

James Loucky:
[This film] has to do with millions of people, including students on our campus, and how immigration policy deals with how immigration policy today is ineffective, illogical and inhumane.
Deportation keeps the people in the shadows, negatively affecting families and children, both in communities in the United States, as well as their home countries.

“How to Start a Revolution”
It’s just a great film about the power of people to come together, non-violently, to change.

“The Dark Side of Chocolate”
[This is a] brand new film about human trafficking and child labor in the cocoa industry in Africa. It leads us to realize that we can make a difference through knowledge about where our food comes from, including buying chocolate that is not produced under conditions of oppression.