By Alex Bacon/The AS Review

Poverty, life as a soldier, the death penalty, genocide and the destruction of vital lands are just a few of the many subjects that will be highlighted during the 10th annual Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival.

The festival features 18 different films chosen by a planning committee to increase awareness and to spark discussion and action, James Loucky, festival coordinator and a professor of anthropology at Western said.   The 20-person planning committee is made up of faculty, staff, students and people from the community.  The committee is completely voluntary and all are welcome to volunteer their time.

The first show of the festival, “Murder in the Snow,” played Thursday, Feb. 18 at the Pickford Cinema.  Although the festival has already begun, films will continue to be shown throughout the week. The final film, “Children of the Amazon,” which documents the drastic changes in the Amazon rain forest and the impact of these changes on the indigenous peoples in the forest, will be shown on Saturday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. in the Fairhaven auditorium.  All shows are free.

Some films, such as “Murder in the Snow,” will be shown multiple times.  “Murder in the Snow” will be shown again on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 4 p.m in the Academic Instructional Center, room 204 and 7 p.m. in the Fairhaven Auditorium.  Both showings will feature a discussion after the film facilitated by professional high altitude mountaineer and guide Luis Benitez, one of the climbers who witnessed the murder of Tibetian refugees in the Himalayan mountains, which the film documents.  The showings on the 25th are co-sponsored by the AS Outdoor Center, the AS Environmental Center and REI.

Most films will be shown in the Fairhaven Auditorium. The Lummi Youth Academy, Sehome High School, Squalicum High School and Bellingham Technical College will host additional showings of some of the films, including “River of Renewal,” “My Neighbor, My Killer” and “Children of the Amazon.”

At each show, there will be close to 20 local organizations tabling by the doors with information about ways to get involved locally, Shirley Osterhaus, event planner  and a Fairhaven professor, said.

Representatives from the Bellingham chapter of Amnesty International will be present at at least two of the films.  The festival is co-sponsored by the Whatcom Human Rights Taskforce.  Many local businesses and organizations donated money to the festival.

“We really want to have informed and engaged global citizens,” Osterhaus said.  “[The films] are a way for people to get connected to people of like values and concerns.”

The goal behind the film festival is to educate, inform and get people engaged and active in the community, she said.
Some of the films Osterhaus and Loucky say not to miss are “Murder in the Snow,” “Children of the Amazon,” “To See if I’m Smiling” and “The Good Soldier.”

“To See if I’m Smiling” and “The Good Soldier” are films that discuss what soldiers go through during war.  “The Good Soldier,” for example, addresses what it means to be a “good soldier” and the toll war takes on soldiers.  “To See if I’m Smiling” follows Israeli women as they go through their mandatory military service.

After the festival, some of the films will be available through Wilson Library and others through the Bellingham Public Library.  Not all films will be available because of agreements with filmmakers.

For a schedule of the films, please see the events calendar at http://wwu.edu/fairhaven.

For more information about the Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival, visit www.whrtf.org.