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Women + Film Voices Film Festival showcases four films with a Colorado connection

Work from photographer Suzanne Heintz's documentary short Playing House.
Work from photographer Suzanne Heintz's documentary short Playing House.

The fourth annual Women + Film Voices Film Festival opens tonight at the Sie FilmCenter with a diverse array of documentaries, comedies, features and short films all centered on women. This fest has grown in both scope and attendance over its run at the Sie, becoming known as a showcase of stories about women and told by women from all over the world. And for the first time ever, four of the films in this year's lineup involve subjects and filmmakers with Colorado ties. In advance of the festival opening, founder and event producer Tammy Brislin sat down with Westword to give the inside story on these Colorado-proud works.

See also: Suzanne Heintz and her plastic love in Life Once Removed

Penny & Red: The Life of Secretariat's Owner

Screening:Wednesday, March 19, 7:15 p.m.

Special guest: Beret Strong, director and daughter of Penny Chenery

"This documentary is about Penny (Chenery Tweedy) who raised the racehorse Secretariat," says Brislin. "Her family moved to Colorado in the '60s and she and her husband were founding members who helped launch the Vail ski resort. Her kids still live here, and it was her son and daughter in-law -- Beret Strong and John Tweedy -- that produced the documentary. Penny is 92 and she still lives here in Boulder with her family.

"I saw this film at the Boulder International Film Festival and it was sort of billed as the 'non-Disney version of the Secretariat movie.' It's really story of her life, not the Disney version. She's a force to be reckoned with."

"Bee People" First Look from Glencross Films on Vimeo.

Bee People

Screens: Saturday, March 22, 12:30 p.m.

Special guests: Producer Leslie Ellis and director David Knappe

"Bee People is a documentary made by a local woman named Leslie Ellis -- she's made a career change, going from the corporate world into raising bees. Now she advocates for bees on their behalf, encouraging people to have hives and tend the bees."

CLAW

Screens: Saturday, March 22, 7:15 p.m.

Special guest: Director Brian Wimer

"CLAW stands for the Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers. This documentary is co-directed by Brian Wimer, who grew up in Colorado and went to Cherry Creek High School. This is definitely a departure from some of the docs we've had -- it's about the lady arm-wrestling movement that is sweeping the U.S. These arm wrestlers are a lot like the women who are involved in wrestling and roller derby -- they create a persona, they come in costume and they arm wrestle. Plus, money they raise from arm wrestling goes to charity. I think it will be a good film to introduce the festival to a brand-new audience."

Playing House: Chapter 1

Screens: Friday, March 21, 9:30 p.m. as part of the Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves Shorts Program

"The subject, director and producer of this short film, Suzanne Heintz, lives in Capitol Hill," says Brislin. "It is a really interesting documentary about an art project she's taken on over the last fifteen years. She's kind of thumbing her nose at society's expectations that say that at her age, she should be married and have kids. What she's done is acquire a mannequin family -- she has a mannequin husband and a mannequin daughter. This is her first fifteen-minute short doc -- it touches upon why she started and shows some of her photos, which are incredible.

"She took the mannequins to Paris last summer and she documented some of that trip. That to me makes it performance art, also. I mean, they are self portraits, but you get to see as she sets up these shots in public, people's reactions and they way they interact with her and the mannequins."

The Women + Film Voices Film Festival kicks off tonight at the Sie FilmCenter and runs through March 23. For more information on films, workshops and a full lineup of festival showings and activities, visit the Sie's website.