Ava DuVernay. Angelina Jolie. Marielle Heller. Sophia Coppola. Patty Jenkins. Julie Dash. Julia Hart. Lynne Ramsey. Debra Granik. Greta Gerwig. Dee Rees. Karyn Kusama. Lulu Wang. Agnes Varda. Mimi Leder. Barbra Streisand. Catherine Hardwicke. Penny Marshall. Betty Thomas. Gina Prince Blythwood. Elizabeth Banks. Amma Asante. Ida Lupino. Julie Taymor. Kathryn Bigelow. If you don’t know these women, their names or their work you should. These are badass women who are cinematic geniuses, mothers, sisters, mentors, daughters and auteurs who had their path carved out more than 100 years ago by one woman – Alice Guy-Blache’.
What most of us don’t realize is that as long as movies have been made, there have been women making them. The Lumiere Brothers aka the Fathers of Cinema were dazzling audiences with images of running trains. All the while, Alice Guy-Blache’, who was employed by Gaumont as their secretary and ultimately became the world’s first female director responsible for the 1st narrative film, hand tinted color, synchronized sound, pre-recorded sound and SOLAX film studios.
Narrated by one of the Executive Producers (many of whom include such names as Robert Redford and Hugh Hefner) Jodie Foster and Directed/Written/Edited/Produced by Pamela B. Green, Be Natural: the Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache’ is mesmerizing, mind boggling and a historical digital un-mapping via Ancestry.com of Blache’s life, career and legacy as a cinematic pioneer. Green relies on the digital genealogical giant and descendants of Guy-Blache’, her associates and documented evidence to present the fascinating tale of a woman who suffered the same plight female filmmakers still grapple with today…respect.
Blache’ was groundbreaking and way ahead of her time. While most think Birth of A Nation (1915) was the first film to feature an all black cast, it was really one of Blache’s films in 1912 ‘A Fool and His Money’ was the first and featured James Russell – The King of the Cake Walk and is troupe. We also learn that Thomas Edison may be credited with live sound recordings, but Blache’ (who worked alongside Edison) is credited with incorporating pre-recorded sound. She was also one of the first to confront women’s issues on celluloid with a film in 1916 about birth control that was quickly abolished by the powers that be.
Not surprising, once Wall Street (which was male dominated) became involved within the filmmaking process women were pushed out resulting in Blache’ no longer being able to make a living, losing her studio to bankruptcy and unceremoniously having her legacy erased or replaced…until now.
No matter what lane of filmmaking you thrive in or are a fan of it is imperative that the name Alice Guy-Blache’ stays on your lips for eternity. For it is her contribution to the industry that allows us to enjoy cinema in the manner we are now use to. It is a documentary that is timely, necessary and a loving well documented tribute to an important presence in cinema her-story.
Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blache’ is in theaters now. Go to benaturalmovie.com to find showings in your city near you. In the meantime, it can found digitally tomorrow and August 20th on Blu-Ray and DVD