The little-known godmother of modern filmmaking, Alice Guy-Blaché is the focus of the insightful documentary film, Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché.
Widely recognised as being the first-ever female film director, French-born Alice Guy-Blaché pioneered the methods that modern filmmakers have become accustomed to. We’re talking pre-1900s era filmmaking here, where Alice would go on to produce and direct countless numbers of films after beginning her career as a secretary for Gaumont-Paris, a company that began in the field of manufacturing cameras to becoming a powerhouse film production studio. Prior to Alice, films were limited to being a series of moving pictures (bland shots of moving crowds and the like). It was only when Alice stepped in and provided a narrative to these moving pictures, as well as colour and a new technique to sync audio to the picture, that would shape the future of modern filmmaking.
So why was it that no one in the industry had ever heard of her before? Well, this is what director Pamela B. Green aims to find out in her documentary, Be Natural. Green sets out to bring Alice’s story to the world by uncovering old documentation, photographs, archival video footage and by chasing down Alice’s lineage and speaking with her great-great-grandchildren, in a contemporary and engaging fashion. We soon discover that the pioneering director’s history was lost from collective consciousness due to the misreporting of facts, unlike her contemporaries, one example being Georges Méliès, who went on to become a lot more recognised in the field.
The documentary, which is narrated by Jodie Foster plays out as a factual retelling of Alice Guy-Blaché’s life while trying to inject a detective-like story element as Green tries to unravel the mystery behind Alice’s disappearance from historical recognition. Fans of the craft of filmmaking and the industry, in general, will enjoy the education provided in the film, as it’s essentially a must-know bit of information about film history. People without an interest in film or cinema, however, may find this biographical documentary a bit on the tedious side. There wasn’t much controversy surrounding Alice Guy-Blaché to make for a story that would entice the general public in giving this film a shot, and you can’t blame them, as it’s a film for purists more than anything. It’s akin to a nature documentary, but with early-century filmmaking as the landscape.
Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché is a great documentary for film buffs looking to expand their knowledge of film history. It features some excellent, restored archival footage of Alice’s early films and it was an eye-opening experience to see just how influential her work has become to modern filmmakers whether they know it or not. Sadly, there just isn’t enough in this documentary to engage a mainstream audience, so just like Alice Guy-Blaché’s legacy, this film may also become relatively unheard of.