Flick fanatics can always expect a perfect evening at the Pickford Film Center in one of its intimate theaters (and perhaps with some buttery popcorn for the show), but in October you can find something extra special: the Doctober festival! Brand new feature-length documentary films will be gracing the Pickford’s screens every day, along with filmmaker and expert Q&As, from Sept. 30 to Nov. 3. 

“Everything you’re seeing, you’re probably among the first audiences to see it,” says Gray Gordon, the Pickford’s marketing manager. Doctober has a new aesthetic theme every year (this time it’s “Our World Has Gone To The Docs”), but there’s always a diverse range of topics with something for everyone: art, immigrants and the American Dream, animals, racial and social justice, music, inspirational teachers, sports, Pez dispensers, or heists! 

Melissa Tamminga and Gray Gordon

“Even though we’re getting a new slate of films every year, what you can rely on is … just how vast and different documentary as a form can actually be [because they’re not only produced in] the style of archival footage, talking heads and narration — it can look different and is just as varied in its capacity for expression and storytelling as narrative storytelling is,” Gordon says.  

The Doctober film list is specially curated by a dream team of movie masters: “Father of Doctober” Michael Falter, Program Director Melissa Tamminga, and Assistant Programmer Jane Julian. Their goal is to show as many documentaries as they can, generally ranging from 40 to 60 with each played twice. 

Falter originally created Doctober in 2006 as a West Coast iteration of the True/False Film Fest, an annual documentary film festival in Columbia, Missouri. Doctober is the biggest documentary film festival in the Northwest, and unlike many other film festivals, the Pickford is dedicated to compensating the filmmakers of all featured documentaries. 

“This is not the norm– most of the time, a festival is like, ‘Hey, you should be honored to have your film here, and we’re not going to give you any compensation of any kind,’” Tamminga says.  

As a nonprofit, community support is what allows the Pickford to thrive, making Doctober and its expansion to a second building possible. The new location at 105 Grand will be less than a block away from the first, with two large theaters and one small theater which can be utilized for both regular screenings and private events. Three more screens allows for even more unique Doctober films, an extension of their showings year-round, and a boost to Bellingham’s arts district with community enrichment through film.  

“There’s nothing quite like seeing a film at a festival for the first time with other people who are seeing the film for the first time and hearing those reactions,” Tamminga says. “It’s just such a communal experience that you can not get anywhere else.”  

To check out the lineup for Doctober and explore ways you can contribute to the Pickford’s expansion, visit pickfordfilmcenter.org. 1318 Bay St., Bellingham, 360.647.1300, pickfordfilmcenter.org