Alice Guy-Blache was a pioneer of film, the first female director in history and probably the first person to make a feature film. However, her name and her legacy have been almost completely erased and forgotten from history over the years, and the American producer Pamela B. Green, for whom this was the first documentary she directed, decided to correct this historical injustice. Digging through the archives and doing some research for some of the projects she was working on, Green stumbled across the name Guy-Blache. She decided to ask a little about her and research who she was, and she was completely fascinated by the fact that almost none of the people from the film world even knew who she was.
And here Green gathered a really respectable team of interlocutors, from actors and directors, producers and critics, film historians and archivists, and set out on a journey to discover who this truly fascinating woman was. The narrator of the film is Jodie Foster, and among other things, Green managed to dig up interviews with the author from the late fifties and early sixties when Guy-Blache was already in her late eighties. In parallel, while she tries to find her descendants, the descendants of people who worked with her, and to find her films in archives around the world, she reconstructs her life and what she actually did.
That’s how we learn that as a 20-year-old Alice got a job as a secretary at Gaumont, one of the film pioneers who had one of the first film studios. By chance, in 1895, she found herself at the first film screening of the Lumiere brothers in Paris, and the very next year she started experimenting with film and shooting herself. She also wrote feature films and directed them herself, and from 1896 until 1906 she was the only woman directing. And not only was she the first female director, it is assumed today that she was the first person to make the first feature film at all, because while the famous brothers were filming workers leaving the factory or a train arriving at the station, she was already making feature films.
In addition to being a fascinating story about a person whose heritage has been completely forgotten and suppressed from the collective consciousness and history, this film offers “Be Natural” and incredible insight into those early days of film. And not only in France, but also in America, since Alice Guy and her husband moved to the USA around 1910 and continued shooting films there. Although it is still not known precisely how many films she made, it is a fascinating story in which, among other things, we learn why all the film studios moved from the east to the west at one point and how Hollywood was created in the first place. But above all, this is an ode to a pioneer of film who deserves to be known for her name.