The vital and enlightening documentary "Hot Flash Havoc" takes a detailed look at the under-discussed topic of menopause while unraveling its various medical, social and sexual ramifications. To call the film appointment viewing for women of a certain age is perhaps an understatement.

Director Marc Bennett, with the help of writer-narrator Marnie Inskip, effectively tracks the curious evolution of menopause - and female physiology in general - and the relatively recent strides made in the understanding and treatment of a key health issue that eventually affects every woman.

"Havoc" largely focuses on the upshot of 2002's U.S. Women' Health Initiative study that demonized the hormone therapies widely used to combat such menopausal symptoms as depression, lack of libido, memory loss, mood swings and, of course, the infamous hot flashes. The film posits that the government-sanctioned study misrepresented its results, causing panicked women everywhere to dump their estrogen-based medications thereby endangering their health and well-being.

A wide array of medical experts, professors and researchers, plus many women whose lives have been profoundly affected by menopause, weigh in on the sensitive subject with clarity, candor and at times humor. Even if the material doesn't always lend itself to scintillating filmmaking, there's no refuting the enormous value of the information shared here.

Free 'Havoc' Screening, Q&A session

On Tuesday The Loft Cinema is hosting a free screening of "Hot Flash Havoc," a documentary about perimenopause and menopause.

Afterward, Dr. Elizabeth Vliet, a women's health specialist who is featured in the film, will answer questions from the audience. Vliet founded HER Place: Health Enhancement Renewal for Women, in Tucson and Dallas.

"It was a film that came to our attention and we thought it was important to show it," said Jeff Yanc, the Loft Cinema's program director.


Hot Flash Havoc


• Not rated.

• Director Marc Bennett.

• Running time: 87 minutes.