Monday, January 28th, 2019
Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival Explores Critical Issues
Lorraine Wilde

josh johnson human rights

For the nineteenth year in a row, Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival (BHRFF) will present thought-provoking films gathered from around the world. Their mission: to encourage the viewing community to explore and engage in critical human rights issues. Over the 10-day festival held February 21 through March 2, 2019, 23 films will be screened across 13 venues throughout Whatcom County, free of charge.

Human rights are at the center of the daily news. The country has been divided in politics, between friends, and within families regarding core issues related to gender equality, immigration reform, refugee sanctuary, reproductive rights, and climate change.

Alive and Kicking Soccer Grannies film human rights

A group of South African grandmothers come together on the soccer field for a weekly time for camaraderie and health in the face of poverty and community disruptions.

Each year, a dedicated volunteer committee selects insightful, moving films that tackle these tough and controversial issues. The BHRFF volunteers believe that a¬†shared commitment to human rights is integral to a healthy planet. The 23 films selected attempt to educate and bring light stories of environmental activism, the fight for indigenous rights, racism, gender identity in the military, immigration and challenging your own government to name just a few. But the people behind this event aren’t just hoping to educate, they’re hoping to ignite engagement in these critical issues. By provoking thought, perhaps there will also be action.

Opening night of the festival will be held at Pickford Film Center. Films are screened throughout the festival at venues that include multiple locations at Western Washington University, Bellingham Technical College and Whatcom Community College. Most films will be followed by discussions facilitated by someone involved with making the film or by experts familiar with the issues they cover. After the films, representatives and activists from local organizations will also be on hand as resources for further learning and future involvement. Some films are screened only once, while others are shown multiple times in various venues around Whatcom County.

Burkinabe Rising Film human rights

In Burkinabe Rising, Burkina Faso, a small landlocked country in West Africa, is home to a vibrant community of artists, musicians, and engaged citizens who carry on the revolutionary spirit behind a popular insurrection that overturned dictatorship.

BHRFF’s long history and mission have been recognized. They received a 2015 Mayor‚Äôs Arts Award and were listed as one of nine ‚ÄėFilm Festivals That Are Making A Difference‚Äô in the U.S. Amnesty International USA‚Äôs local Group 270 also received an award for its financial and volunteer support of BHRFF. More than 60 individuals, businesses and organizations sponsor the event so that it can remain free of charge to the public.

Patrimonio film human rights

In Patrimonio, natural resources and a way of life are threatened by multinational interests. In response, a group of fishermen rally their Baja community to protect water sources as well as the sea, through challenging their government, denouncing corruption, and demanding justice.

The Films

Below is just a taste of the 23 incredibly topical¬†films that will be shared at this year’s festival. Each is relevant to the heavily-debated issues¬†appearing in the news each day.

Our health care system is controversial on many levels. The documentary film, The Bleeding Edge, highlights personal stories of people affected by medical technology gone wrong, giving a voice to injured victims as well as the need to challenge complex legal loopholes that allow corporate malpractice to go unpunished. Its sure to get you fired up and may have you calling your representatives afterward.


Three films from the Kids Can Save the Planet Documentary Series hope that the voices of children will convince us to take action. Plastic is Forever¬†by¬†young filmmaker,¬†Dylan D’Haeze, from the nearby San Juan Islands follows plastic trash to where it ends up — with some surprising results. He shows how kids can help make a difference in a world that is increasingly dependent on plastic.¬†Tipping Point¬†explores how humans have impacted the Earth including how cows affect climate. Everything Connects¬†is a¬†visual kaleidoscope of how humans are harming the planet, but also the many ways we can live in balance with Earth.

Gender identity and the way we think and address it in our culture has been shifting in fits and spurts over the last five decades and especially recently. Around 15,500 transgender people serve in the U.S. military. TransMilitary chronicles four individuals who defend their country’s freedom while fighting for their own, and how they put careers and family livelihoods on the line by coming out as transgender.


The clash between Native Americans and industries that put their natural resources and way of life at risk has been ongoing. In the U.S. the fight between Dakota Access Pipeline and the Standing Rock Sioux has further divided our country. In Canada now, indigenous people are protesting pipelines that threaten their land and water resources. But these recent controversies are just the tip of the ice berg. Warrior Women is a documentary that follows mothers and daughters fighting for indigenous rights in the American Indian movement of the 1970s.  The film unveils not only a female perspective of history, but also the impact of political struggles on the children who bear witness.


Warrior Women Teaser

Check out Indigenous resistance passed down through generations in the first look at the official Warrior Women teaser! Thank you, Santiago X for the sick artwork off the top! ‚úäūüŹĹ#warriorwomenfilm #HotDocs25

Posted by Warrior Women on Thursday, April 26, 2018

White Right: Meeting the Enemy is an Emmy-winning documentary by Muslim filmmaker Deeyah Khan who meets U.S. neo-Nazis and white nationalists face to face. During the now-infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, she seeks to understand the personal and political motivations behind the resurgence of far-right extremism in the U.S.

There’s never been a better time to explore these controversial issues. BHRFF continues to bring high quality films that educate and ignite a passion to get involved. Because there are multiple showings and venues, be sure to check the full program for exact show times and locations.

More arts info is available on our Theaters and Music page, and our Museums and Galleries page, or see the full list of Lorraine’s articles.

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About the Author:

Lorraine Wilde has immersed herself in so many of Whatcom County’s vibrant communities over the past 25 years. Owner and Publicity Strategist for Wilde World Communications, Lorraine has connected with locals as a writer, actor, scientist, teacher, filmmaker, singer, and mom. Lorraine has performed improv and staged works in several of Whatcom County’s theatres and she is active in the Bellingham Film community. She is also a big supporter of the local music community. When she has a spare second, its spent with her children outside exploring a new adventure.