Doctober film fest
by Rodney Lotter
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Doctober film festival at the Pickford Film Center, which showcases the latest and greatest in documentary filmmaking with more than 40 screenings that range from the personal to the universal.
The inspiration for Doctober sprang from a 2007 film festival, the True/False West Film Festival, which was a collaboration between the Pickford and the True/False crew from Columbia, Missouri. True/False West took place in the Spring of 2007 and brought 25 films to a variety of venues in Bellingham. It ended up winning a Mayor’s Arts Award that year, but due to difficulties and politics, the festival became a one-off event. But, the success of the festival brought about the idea of a documentary film festival that would happen in the Fall and bring documentaries from local, national and international filmmakers to Bellingham in the form of Doctober.
For film buffs, documentaries tend to hold a special place in the collective history of cinema. Documentaries, unlike other films, transcend genres and in many ways hold onto stronger truths and values. When a documentary is done right, it can shed light on its subject in a way than fictional films can only dream of coming even close to. In short, documentaries satisfy the various curiosities that people have about people, perspectives, places and things that they may never get to experience in person.
Among the more than 40 documentaries being offered this year, there are a handful about music – perhaps one of Bellingham’s favorite obsessions – and a couple produced by local filmmakers.
A.K.A. Doc Pomus: While the name might not ring a bell for most, the artist known as Doc Pomus was one of the most respected songwriters of his time. Among the many songs he created are “This Magic Moment,” “A Teenager In Love,” and “Viva Las Vegas,” and he was also one of the first people to introduce Lou Reed to the music business. This documentary tracks his transition from a child struggling with polio, to his development as a blues singer and songwriter and his eventual acceptance into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame.
Bean to Bar: Directed by “Binary” Bob Ridgley, Bean to Bar examines the world of artisan chocolate and the chocolate makers within the U.S. As a special treat, there will be an artisan chocolate tasting prior to the film’s showing with some of the best chocolate in the world available to sample. Doesn’t get better than that! Catch the film Oct. 19 at 5 p.m.
Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me: The influence of Big Star, a band that started in Memphis in the early 70s, is hard to measure – possibly because they broke up in 1974 and then re-emerged with a new line-up in 1993. During their hiatus it seemed as if – despite rave reviews for their albums – they would be forgotten like most bands, but they only became more popular as bands like R.E.M. and other alt-rock behemoths started listing the band as a major influence. This film charts the history of Big Star, a band Rolling Stone has called “the quintessential American power pop band” and “one of the most mythical and influential cult acts in the history of rock & roll.” See the film Oct. 4-5.
Closure: This documentary takes place in Bellingham and tells the story of Angela, an African-American adopted and raised by a white family in Bellingham. Originally from Tennessee, Angela was part of a closed adoption and spent her whole life with questions that only her birth family could answer. The film is about her life as a transracial adoptee and the tale of three strong women whose lives became linked together through the journey: Angela, her birth mother, and her adoptive mother. See the film Oct. 5-6.
Muscle Shoals: Muscle Shoals is a small town in Alabama with a big reputation in the world of American music. With a current population of more than 12,000 residents, Muscle Shoals may not be a place that most people visit, but it is home to recording studios that shaped popular music from the 60s on. Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon are among the numerous music pioneers that worked at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. This film documents the history of the town, from its mythical founding by Native Americans to the turbulent Civil Rights Era to the modern day and everything in between. See the film Oct. 18.
The Other Side: Yeah, I know you are probably sick of that “Thrift Shop” song by now, and I can’t blame you. After all, it literally plays at every single bar I’ve been to on any given night. There is just no escaping it, but that is not always a bad thing, especially when you consider that the song was done by a Seattle artist who previously graced the Wild Buffalo stage. Of course, as we all know by now, Seattle has been a music mecca for quite some time. But, it has usually been focused on the heavier, rowdier side of pop music, from Hendrix and the Sonics (from Tacoma, but still…) to Nirvana and the rest of the grunge scene, etc. But, these days there is a bona fide hip hop scene. Macklemore is probably the most famous, but there is a host of others working crowds in Seattle and slowly making a name for themselves in other parts of the world. This documentary delves into the eclectic, experimental and super talented artists that have made Seattle one of the most exciting underground hip hop scenes in the country. The film spotlights many groups and artists that have graced Bellingham stages. Seattle rapper Sol plays a large role in the doc and will have a performance following the screening at the Wild Buffalo. See the film Oct. 12.