Screen and Be Seen
A relatively recent Vermonter -- from Texas by way of Florida -- Alexis Holloway has already made her mark on Burlington's cultural scene. The 33-year-old filmmaker and film impresario is about to produce the fourth annual Estrogen Fest. From February 19 through 22 at the FlynnSpace, the free event will offer 15 motion pictures of various lengths, all either by or about women.
Holloway also brings live performances into the mix. At this year's "Opening Night Broadway Musical Revue: Exploring the Lives of Women in Musical Theatre," six vocalists -- Miriam Bernardo, Sarah Cohen, Jenni-fer Ellis, Erin Fehr, Colleen Horan and Hannah Wall -- present the work of composers such as Kurt Weill, Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim.
"It's totally crazy, I know," Holloway confesses, referring to the scale of the revue, which is directed by a New York actor named Shawn Lipenski.
But this is a movie column, so, begging Broadway's pardon, the focus will remain cinematic. Estrogen Fest began in 2001 with the subtitle A Weekend of Women's Films. Holloway, then a student at Burlington College, dreamed up the idea as part of her research for a project on domestic violence.
"I found a catalogue from a group called Women Making Movies that had all these things I wanted to see," she recalls. "We had a special arrangement with them for that first year to show the films for only $40 each."
Along with her pal Matt McDermott, Holloway tapped sponsors who each underwrote the cost of one screening. About 200 audience members appeared for the three-day debut -- enough of a success to prompt a repeat in 2002.
"We made the mistake of holding the second one at Champlain College," Holloway says. "They have a great auditorium, but parking is impossible. Even so, we drew 250 people. That was the first time we had performance art and guest speakers."
In 2003, 500 people attended Estrogen Fest at FlynnSpace. "We showed 16-mm film, which was new," Holloway points out. "It was at the same time as Mardi Gras, so people were already downtown. This year, by coincidence, it's Mardi Gras again on our weekend, and we've expanded to four days."
The fare is eclectic, from Your Name Is Cellulite, Gail Noonan's animated satirical short on how the advertising industry idealizes beauty, to Carmen Miranda: Bananas Is My Business. The 92-minute documentary concerns the Brazilian superstar of the 1940s who gave fruit a ripe reputation in Hollywood.
Set in an Iranian shelter, Runaway is a nonfiction glimpse of adolescents who have fled from tyrannical, often abusive fathers and brothers. Lip is a video collage of the ubiquitous black maids in mainstream movies from the 1930s to the present day.
La Repetition, a feature by French director Catherine Corsini, tracks the reunion of two female friends -- and eventual lovers -- a decade after their youthful bond is broken by heterosexual tendencies. Signs Out of Time chronicles an archaeologist's study of peaceful, egalitarian, goddess-worshipping Neolithic European civilizations, with a narration by Olympia Dukakis.
The Perfect Goodnight Kiss is a premiere. It's derived from a short, autobiographical script written by Burlington filmmaker Bill Simmon when he was trying to convince a potential girlfriend to go out with him. The twist? Three directors -- the straight Simmon, the straight Holloway and the gay San Francisco-based Alex Woolfson -- depict three different versions of the same story.
Maybe Holloway is fascinated by numerical challenges. Her 12-minute Attraction, also on the Estrogen Fest schedule, emerged from a six-month period in which six local filmmakers each spend only one month writing, casting, shooting and editing a short project.
The group, which calls itself 6 x 6 (pronounced six by six), is halfway to completion; the topics were chosen three months ago. They are sacrifice, timing, deception, reflection and faith, as well as attraction. Holloway's plot centers on a woman who has just broken up with a boyfriend. She walks into a bar and starts to cry, then reveals details of the ruined relationship through flashbacks.
With a 10-person staff, predominantly made up of volunteers, the festival's $17,000 budget is mostly a mirage. "We've never actually raised that much," Holloway admits. "It just means that I don't get paid."
That's one numerical challenge she could probably do without. m
For more info about Estrogen Fest, call 660-4848 or visit www.estrogenfest.net.