Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché A Female Love Letter to Cinema
Thanks to the invitation of Christie Hefner, we had the opportunity to attend the Chicago Feminist Film Festival for the screening of the documentary Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché. Christie’s late father, Hugh Hefner, was one of the film’s producers and its largest donor.
This fantastic film directed by Pamela B. Green unveils the story of Alice Guy-Blaché, an absolute cinema pioneer in search of her forgotten legacy.
Her story is just mesmerizing, to say the least. At the end of the 19th century, Guy-Blaché was in the audience of the historical “surprise” event of the Lumière Brothers, where the first demonstration of film projection took place.
The scene showed a mundane moment: a group of workmen leaving a factory. But Alice’s imagination lit up immediately. After witnessing the technological potential of moving images captured in the film, she understood that this was the perfect way to tell stories in a whole new way.
And she did. Not only she became the first female director who ever existed—in a historical context where women could not even vote, we must add—but with her 1896 film Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy), she arguably became the first person ever to narrate fiction through a film.
That’s a gigantic landmark. That’s basically the genesis of storytelling cinema as we know it.
But she didn’t stay there. As early as 1897, Alice’s revolutionary ideas led her from secretary to head of production for The Gaumont Film Company, the first and oldest film company in the world, which still exists today.
During her 25-year career, Alice Guy-Blaché didn’t stop pushing the envelope, experimenting with various visual and sound effects. Masking techniques, backward projection, and double exposure were just some of her technological contributions to the world.
Overall, Alice wrote, produced and directed more than 1,000 films that narratively and technologically speaking, was very far ahead of their time.
However, at the beginning of the 20th century, Alice disappeared from the industry. She went bankrupt. Most of her work was simply lost or destroyed. Her legacy was completely relegated to oblivion.
The mere fact that her invaluable contributions to cinema–I repeat, she was probably the first person ever to create a narrative film–continues to be ignored speaks volume about the challenges and exclusion that women filmmakers have had to face from literally the creation of this art form.
That’s why director Pamela B. Green decided to something about it. She understood that the world needed to be reintroduced to Alice Guy-Blaché. And the best way to achieve that was to write, produce and direct her first documentary feature around her.
Green is far from being a rookie. She has more than 15 years of experience in the industry, focusing especially on motion design, entertainment, and the marketing of dozens of films, as well as important events and TV shows like The Academy Awards and the Critic’s Choice Awards.
Narrated by Jodie Foster, Be Natural also works as a vital account of the first decades of cinema, with a brand new and vital female point of view. Pamela B. Green puts all her knowledge in full display, using several special effects techniques to recreate the narrative world of Alice Guy-Blaché.
In more than one way, Be Natural is an emotional reverberation of two women from two different eras, displaying their love for cinema.
If you want to know more about this astonishing project (and you should!), you can visit https://benaturalthemovie.com/
This is the perfect time to spread the word and support this impressive and emotional research and filmmaking effort.