Human rights film festival inspires hope

By Craig Gabrielson

The 17th Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival recently wrapped in the local community. Filmmakers from all around gathered to share films and to discuss important ideas and pressing matters. Whatcom Community College hosted of a number of the films in this year’s festival.

According to its website, the festival “supports independent filmmakers, fosters dialogue, and promotes action.”
Sophia Mathews, Whatcom student and festival volunteer said, “the Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival is about bringing together a variety of issues and humanizing them. It’s important for people to watch so they can open their minds and understand one another.”
“It really humanizes the whole situation and it erases stigmas behind certain issues,” she added.
Film topics include immigration, local homelessness, clean energy development, environmental protection and a number of other contemporary issues.
“It’s almost like traveling, in that it’s mind-opening. There’s so much to the world that we don’t always think about,” Mathews said. “Now, more than ever, it’s important for people to talk about these issues. There’s a lot of tension in the world.”
The festival is an opportunity to “explore critical rights issues together and to deliberate how we might respond to promote human rights near and far,” according to the website.
“We’re the generation that may have to deal with these problems. If we raise the next generation to be more open, we may not have to deal with these issues in the future,” Mathews said.
At the end of each film, there was a facilitated discussion; occasionally the filmmaker was present. The audience was able to discuss and evaluate the film.
“There was a lot more people than I expected there’d be,” Mathews said. “The creator of the film, ‘Sad Happiness’ was present via Skype, which offered the opportunity to have an open discussion with the filmmaker about what we’d just seen.”
In 2014, the Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival was listed as one of nine “Film Festivals That Are Making a Difference” by the Audience Awards, an organization started by filmmakers for filmmakers.
“There was a variety of emotions throughout the evening but it ended with an uplifting, inspirational attitude. You leave with this new story and a desire for change,” Mathews said.

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