By Alex George
Over 50 documentaries, covering a range of topics from South Sudanese independence to climate change, will be screened at the Pickford Film Center during the month of October.
The annual event, known as Doctober, was partially inspired by the True/False Film Festival based in St. Louis, a documentary festival which has been held since 2004. In its ninth year at the Pickford, this Doctober has the largest lineup of films to date.
“Two years ago we had 30 films, last year we had 40, and this year we have over 50.” said Lindsey Gerhard, the Pickford Theater’s marketing manager.
Doctober also features a punch card system, known as the Doctober Challenge, which rewards cinema goers for seeing eight or more documentaries. Prizes include passes to museums, Pickford tickets, rare film memoirs from Village Books, and beer and pinball at The Racket, a bar on State Street with a pinball theme.
Patrons that see 16 documentaries will also receive a signed certificate claiming them to be the “Smartest Person in the Universe.” Gerhard noted that it is not unheard of for a few dedicated film buffs to attend 30 or 40 screenings in the month.
“It’s not crazy-It’s dedication!” said Gerhard.
In an attempt to bring documentary film to a wider audience, the Doc-Ed program was started to try to get Bellingham public middle school students to be able to attend a documentary free of charge. Gerhard says that last year the program, with donations from the Mary Redman Foundation, a charity with focus on the arts, was able to bring about 1,100 Bellingham students to see a documentary. This year, with both contributions from the Mary Redman Foundation and from a spring fundraiser, they will be able to bring all 2,400 Bellingham middle school students to a documentary.
Films at this year’s Doctober include “Station to Station,” a collection of 61 one-minute short films featuring musicians, artists, and videographers on an Amtrak train travelling across America from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The train serves as a cross between a rolling art gallery and a tour bus for a range of musicians, varying from punk rock to EDM to reggae.
Following the showing of “Station to Station,” a selection of 16 one- minute short films created by Western Washington University film students inspired by the documentary were shown.
“A lot of the videos you see are made by people who have never made videos in their lives,” said Chris Vargas, the instructor of the Western class who produced the film shorts, “and others were made by people much more familiar with the medium.”
“It’s great that they highlight documentary film and they have good community tie ins,” said Vargas, “so overall I’m enthusiastic about [Doctober].”
Other films include “How to Change the World,” the story of how the environmental activist group Greenpeace was founded, and “Peace Officer,” the story of a former Utah police officer whose son was killed in a police shooting.
The Pickford Film center opened in 1998 and has been at its current 1318 Bay St. location since 2011. Founded by a small group of independent movie fans, the Pickford sought to provide a venue for independent film for the Bellingham community.
“The Pickford has a strong connection to the community,” said Gerhard, “it serves as a living room for the community-as a place to actively disregard censorship.”
Ticketing information and show times can be found at www.pickfordfilmcenter.org. Tickets are $8 with a valid student ID.