I was strongly suggested to watch Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché and it puzzled me. Who was Alice Guy-Blaché? And why had I not heard of her before?
Upon watching this profound documentary passionately directed by Pamela B. Green and beautifully narrated by Jodie Foster, I could not help but be captivated by the unravelling of this wild but extremely justified treasure hunt about this once forgotten pioneer.
I learnt that Alice Guy-Blaché was the world’s first female filmmaker who also did her own producing, screenwriting and was one of the very first ever to make a narrative fiction film. In a time (1890’s) when the rules for cinematography were yet to be written, Alice Guy-Blaché was experimenting with synchronised sound, colour-tinting, close-ups, special effects and interracial casting (which isn’t a big deal now, but back then it was huge).
Because filmmaking was looked upon as a fad and not initially taken seriously, Alice Guy-Blaché managed to grow from a secretary to a fully-fledged filmmaker with her own company, Solax. She even built a studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey; the place where films used to live, prior to Hollywood.
Despite initially hailing from France and moving to the United States after marrying, Alice remained creative, ambitious, determined and established herself long before the role of being a filmmaker was ever a ‘man’s job’. And this is what makes me mad. Despite being a pioneer of cinema and her own boss lady, Alice Guy-Blaché still lived in a man’s world. Nevermind her poetic emotional narratives and all her damn hard work. Because she was a woman, she was written out of history and almost erased completely by ‘film historians’ who were (yep, you guessed it) – all men. I seriously doubt that the same would have happened if Guy-Blaché were a man.
Not only could I somehow relate, sharing a birthday with Guy-Blaché (July 1), but I could only imagine how difficult it was to be a female film director in a time where women didn’t have the social power that they do now. Currently, I’m one of the youngest female film critics in my city and I find it extremely difficult at times to co-exist in an industry which is dominated by men. To be honest, I don’t even know any female film critics my age in Melbourne.
My heart broke for Guy-Blaché as the documentary lead on to her older years, where she had to correct film historians and practically fight for her legacy. Now, thanks to a wonderful director and incredible storytelling, Guy-Blaché is finally getting her dues – 51 years after her death. It breaks my heart that she wasn’t around to ever view this documentary, but after watching this brilliant film, I am certain that somewhere up there she’s flattered and happy her legacy is finally being brought to light – and by a female director.
I am so grateful to have watched Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché. Not only is this film wonderful, extremely powerful, historical, feminist and educational, but it also helped piece a family tree together. If that’s not wonderful, then I don’t know what is. Thank-you specifically to Pamela B. Green for not only unearthing Alice Guy-Blaché’s story, but for helping save Guy-Blaché’s legacy and sharing it with the world.