Doctober is a month-long Documentary Film Fest during the month of October at the Pickford Theatre, a hip venue for Independent films in Bellingham, Washington. While continuing to play a selection of Indy films on one side of the two-screen theatre downtown and in its companion Limelight theatre, a firestorm of documentaries roll through the schedule this month.
Documentaries seem to come in several forms including those that show-up at film festivals (both short and long format films) and those that have been released for theatrical review. The Pickford films are the latter. This is an important distinction for the viewer.
In my opinion the diversity is much larger in a festival setting; smaller films, quirkier films, more single interest or issue films, more international films plus some that you may see awarded at the Oscars.
The kind that play the Pickford are specifically the theatre director’s preferences. He (in this case) has viewed films and made his picks, with an eye to the local community and special interests that can be drawn into the particular film, and his own aesthetics. In some ways it is a time to showcase films that play to the local community of members and future members. Sort of like a test run and a membership drive all rolled together.
To illustrate this concept I present three films, those that played the first three nights of the current Doctober festival:
Kiss the Water, Red Obsession and Leviathan.
Kiss the Water, an artistic –sort of poetic out-there film, tells the story of solitary and enigmatic Megan Boyd, a Scottish Fly tyer. She was known in exclusive fly fishing circles as a woman who fashioned flies out of exotic bird feathers designed to attract Atlantic Salmon in Scottish and English rivers. Prince Charles was one of her clients. She is no longer alive, but her story is told through interviews with those who knew her, of all societal classes. A beautiful film that includes a lot of painterly animation and an orchestrated score, it put my seatmate to sleep. A little short of action and full of long looks at Boyd’s abandoned cottage, my complaint is that the director never showed any images of Boyd until the last 5 second of the film. There he placed a brief piece of footage that confirms the look others have described—a manly woman with self-cut short hair in her tweeds. As stated by reviewer Arthur Ryel-Lindsey, “Ambitious animations by Em Cooper and views of the Scottish countryside, provide a meditative reflection on this woman’s unlikely place in history.“ Director: Eric Steel.
Red Obsession is a film detailing the international cache of the red wine houses of the Bordeaux region in south-western France, and the current obsession to collect and invest in these wines by extremely wealthy Chinese. In particular think the labels and Lafite and Margaux . Narrated by Russell Crowe, in his distinctive smoky base, it is a film with surprising detail. For those in the wine business there are probably no surprises, but to the casual purchaser of red French wines from Bordeaux, I found it quite informative and amazing. As reviewer Chuah Aaro states: “ It is seventy-five minutes of learning about french winemaking, geography, globalization, and the volatility of supply and demand.”
I found the landscape-cinematography and interviews with those in the know most informative.
Directors: David Roach, Warwick Ross.
And then we come to the third night and the insane film Leviathan. An experiential and experimental film about commercial fishing off the coast of New England, it mixes non-conventional camera work with film verite-grit on constantly heaving seas. I suggest Bonine before viewing if seen on a big screen. The film is brutal, lacking in dialogue, full of the sounds of a working fishing vessel at night in wind— with chains clanking, nets unfolding, fish gasping, boots slopping around the deck, bloody water flowing from the decks back to the sea. Visceral, dark, out of focus and back into focus—many in the audience departed before the ending. I was one, although I held out until the last ten minutes. This film is one viewers either love or hate. You are warned. If you take anti sea-sick meds before boarding a cruise ship…forget it.
A few films shown in Missoula’s Big Sky festival last February 2013 are on the Doctober list. I wish there were a few more.