Aspen Filmfest: ‘Hot Flash Havoc’ leads menopause movement | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Filmfest: ‘Hot Flash Havoc’ leads menopause movement

ASPEN – Aspen realtor Heidi Houston never had her sights set on becoming a filmmaker. All she wanted to do was understand why she felt so bad.

“Of the 200 or so symptoms of menopause, I probably had at least half,” she said of the unexplained weight gain, joint pain, hot flashes andexhaustion that took control of her life as she entered her 40s. “It was horrible. The mood swings. The anger, the rage. My children were a fraid of me. I was afraid of me.”

So after countless hours and dollars spent at doctors, and “at the end of my rope,” Houston finally found the answer she sought: Menopause, and perimenopause leading up to it.

Simple words with complex meanings, both of which Houston tackles in her documentary, “Hot Flash Havoc,” being screened Saturday as part of Aspen Filmfest 2010.

“I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and nobody could tell me either. I was prescribed sleeping pills, I was treated for depression, I exercised and dieted but continued to gain weight,” said Houston, who produced the film with writer Marnie Inskip and director Marc Bennett. “And it wasn’t until I heard an expert on menopause speak that I knew, in a matter of minutes, what was going on.”

That expert, according to Houston, set the ball in motion for what would become “Hot Flash Havoc,” an 89-minute film that “asks the questions and poses some answers that every woman over 35 – and the husbands and partners who love them – want to know,” the film’s program notes read.

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In fact, “Hot Flash Havoc” features interviews with 32 experts in women’s health – “leaders in the fields of women’s sexual health, heart health, bone health, mental health and physical health” – chosen for the varied viewpoints they bring to the issue.

“I think the most important thing is the fact that we have heard from people in every part of women’s health care,” said Houston, noting that menopause affects evrerything from a woman’s sex drive to her teeth, and from her mood to her bone density. “Menopause and perimenopause are whole-person issues, and that is what we are trying to teach with this film.”

The film also features real women – and their male partners, friends and family members – offering an honest look into how perimenopause and menopause affect people’s lives.

And while the film is peppered with humor, it is designed to take a serious look into a serious subject. According to Houston, one-third of American women are in perimenopause or menopause. And as life extpectancies continue to increase, more women will outlive menopause – which means more women will have to learn to live through and beyond menopause.

“We put a lot of humor in beginning of the film, but it gets real serious, with the gravity of the issue, at the end,” said Houston, noting that 75 percent of women will experience depression as part of perimenopause and menopause. “This is serious stuff.”

As such, “Hot Flash Havoc” is more than a film. It is a movement – a movement Houston hopes will take root across America sooner than later.

“This is a movement that says, ‘Let’s fix our women; let’s let them live their lives to the fullest,'” she said.

jmcgovern@aspentimes.com

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