Be Natural is a revelatory film about pioneering female filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché. Writer-director Pamela B. Green has done a superior job of telling her story in this lively account of a neglected woman. The briskly-paced documentary not only sets film history on its ear but demands a thorough reexamination of Blaché’s extraordinary career. Alice Guy was present at the Lumière Brothers’ presentation of their first motion picture…a fitting start for an unusually fruitful career. Yet she was cheated out of her rightful credit as a writer, director and studio chief early in the 20th century when her longtime boss Leon Gaumont published a history of his company, omitted her name and credited others for work she did.
As Green tells it, she was the one who persuaded Gaumont to use the new medium of film to tell stories instead of simply recording vaudeville acts or actualities. She even experimented with synchronized sound. A clever and industrious person, she discovered and nurtured talented men like the prolific French director Louis Feuillade and celebrated art director Ben Carré, who got credit for her achievements. Everyone who ever worked with her came away impressed.
I can’t begin to express the impact Be Natural had on me. I knew of Alice Guy-Blaché but had only a nodding acquaintance with her work. I am grateful to Pamela Green for opening my eyes. She makes excellent use of animation and graphics to tell this saga with visual flair, never distracting from her priceless source material, including a rare filmed interview with the director herself.
It doesn’t hurt to have Jodie Foster narrating the story (she also served as an executive producer) or hearing from such notable filmmakers as Ava DuVernay, Patty Jenkins, Julie Taymor, Lake Bell, and Julie Delpy, to name just a few. Robert Redford and the late Hugh Hefner supported this project early on and are also credited as executive producers.
Be Natural opens today in Los Angeles and next Friday in New York City. To learn more, I encourage you to visit the film’s official website www.benaturalthemovie.com