Alice Guy-Blaché was a woman of firsts.
She is credited as being the first female film director, the first film director to create a full-length feature film with an African-American cast and the first female cinematography lecturer at Columbia University. During her career, which began in France and continued in the U.S., Guy-Blache directed more than 1,000 films.
“Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché” restores Guy-Blaché’s rightful place in film history. The industry erased her, film historians ignored her, and male directors took credit for her work. Current industry influentials such as Jodie Foster (executive producer of the documentary), Robert Redford, Geena Davis, Julie Taymor, Sir Ben Kingsley, Evan Rachel Wood and Julie Delpy help to emphasize Guy-Blache’s industry impact.
The film’s title is taken from Guy-Blache’s mandate to her actors to “be natural,” a huge slogan painted on the proscenium of the Solax Studios stage, in Fort Lee, New Jersey, where Guy shot many of her American films.
“When we found this film, we knew we needed to show it at the Art,” said Kerstin Kansteiner, owner of Portfolio and Berlin and the secretary for the Art Theater Board of Directors. “The Art’s board, which includes Richard Lewis (Treasurer), Ron Nelson, Karen Chinn, Carole Tokudomi, Debbie Gonzales, Claudia Schou, James Whale and Board Chair Jan van Dijs, likes to make choices we are proud of. We spoke directly to the film’s director, Pamela Green, and she will be at the showing on both days, to personalize the film for the audience.”
Guy-Blaché was present at the Lumière Brothers’ presentation of their first motion picture; her movies were mentioned by legendary directors Alfred Hitchcock and Sergei Eisenstein. According to director Green’s extensive and detailed research, Guy-Blache was instrumental in encouraging the telling of stories with film, rather than just showing popular acts and synchronizing sound with silent films (the first music videos).
From the “vintage post card” opening credits through to the finale, a re-creation of a Guy-Blaché single-shot comedy, we can appreciate the time, effort and expertise director Green used to create the documentary. Animation, graphics, location tours and narrations are used to convey information and — a rare treat — a filmed 1964 black-and-white TV interview with Guy-Blaché herself.
"Be Natural," including a Q&A with director Pamela Green, is showing at 11 a.m. July 27 and 28 at the Art Theater, Long Beach’s last remaining single-screen movie theater, 2025 E. Fourth St. For more information, call 562-438-5435 or go to http://arttheatrelongbeach.org.