By Monique Everett
Whether it’s endangered species, the melting ice caps, or holocaust deniers, Doctober, a film festival of documentaries, brings awareness to important issues in our world.
With a lineup of 57 documentaries, the Pickford Film Center holds the annual event in October, while offering Doc-Ed, challenges, special guests, filmmaker visits, and more.
Offering 13 Bellingham public middle schools guest teaching sessions, the Doc-Ed program enables young adults to see a free documentary.
Lucas Holtgeer, Education Outreach Coordinator at the Pickford Theatre, works to organize field trips for the Doc-Ed program.
“There is more to a movie then just your favorite part,” Holtgeer said. “Media literacy helps students navigate through the age of over-information.”
This is the first year Doc-Ed invites teachers, and students to participate in the Pickford’s Media Literacy program.
“It’s a great opportunity to give students while helping them build critical thinking skills,” Holtgeer said.
Through private donations and grants the Pickford can provide tickets, transportation, and popcorn for thousands of middle schoolers in Whatcom County.
A punch card system, known as the Doctober challenge, inspires community involvement by encouraging movie goers to win prizes for seeing eight or more documentaries.
Whatcom partnered with the Pickford to present a free screening of TED Talks on PBS: “Science and Wonder,” in celebration of I heart STEM month, and the 50-year anniversary.
“Science and Wonder,” highlighted the incredible achievements, discoveries, and stories of leaders in the scientific and art world.
Nick Potter, a documentary film teacher at Whatcom, believes students can become empowered by watching documentaries. Contemplation leads to participation he said.
“Start a conversation with the text. It helps you to establish authority, to reason, to argue, to create perspective, and to find voice in the ongoing conversation,” Potter said.
Susie Purve, executive director at the Pickford, said her favorite documentary was “12th & Clairmount,” a film about the civil insurrection in Detroit in 1967
“I like this film because it takes place where I’m originally from, and it’s rare to see a fairly balanced story about that time period,” Purve said.
Films at this year’s Doctober included “March of the Penguins,” a cinematic journey through Antarctica capturing the incredible life of penguins.
Following “March of the Penguins,” was a film called “Big Sonia,” about Sonia Warshawski, a Holocaust survivor, who is served an eviction notice for her tailor shop.
Facing retirement, Sonia revisits her tragic past in hopes of reaching others as well as to put an end to Holocaust deniers.
Other films included “Shadow Man,” about Richard Hambleton, a contemporary artist who in the 1980’s gained prominence for his shadow figures found all over New York City.
“Yasuni Man,” a film presented by the Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival, will play on Oct. 30 at 6:30 p.m. followed by Q+A with Director Ryan Killackey.
“Yasuni Man,” is about the fight to protect the land, and indigenous people of the Ecuadorian Amazon from countries interested in tapping massive oil fields from the area.
In its eleventh year, Doctober is one of the largest film festivals on the West Coast Purve said.
Opening in 1998, the Pickford Theatre was started by a group of people interested in independent film, and now marks the epicenter of the Arts District in downtown Bellingham.
“There was no place to see those kinds of films here in Bellingham,” Purve said. “They wanted to show films you wouldn’t find in a large corporate movie theatre.”
“The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power,” said Mary Pickford, a film actress, and producer from the silent movie era, who inspired the Film Center’s name.
Show times, and ticket info can be found at www.pickfordfilmcenter.org. Tickets are $8 with a valid student ID.