“Be Natural” The Best Documentary You’ve Never Heard Of

When Alice Guy-Blaché completed her first film in 1896 Paris, she was not only the first female filmmaker, but one of the first directors ever to make a narrative film. "Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché" follows her rise from Gaumont secretary to her appointment as head of production a year later, and her subsequent illustrious 20-year career in France and in the United States, as the founder of her own studio and as writer, director, and/or producer of 1,000 films—after which she was veritably erased from history. Until now…. Directed by Pamela B. Green, the film is narrated by Jodie Foster.

Be Natural movie poster

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché is an adventure of a film. Director Pamela B. Green takes viewers through some cinematography history and lays out the players. She uses an easy to follow tree diagram- scribbling along the way who was married to who, who passed away, and then a map of all the locations they traveled to. Pamela incorporates phone call recordings, archived and new footage, and captures the audience as she takes them on her journey to find Alice.

Jodie Foster (Narrator) and Pamela B. Green (Director) at an event for Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (2018). IMDB.com

Interviews with over fifty film historians, actors, directors, professors, and many more, make it clear that no one has heard of Alice. The film reveals how Alice was the first to synchronize sound; her technique included prerecording voices and then having the actors lip sync when they filmed. She was involved in a major way (directing, producing, writing) in over 1000 films, which bought Pamela to a basic question, “Why have I never heard of her?” This sentiment echoes in many of her interviewees and brings up responsibility, one sharing, “As a woman filmmaker, I should know of her.”

The story walks through putting together pieces of Alice’s work to make sense of her life. Striking to me is that Alice fought a bit in France for these opportunities, fought harder in America to break into their film industry, but her hardest fight was after all of her achievements, to get the recognition she deserved for them. It’s a fight not thought about often, assuming that the more difficult tribulations were completing the work, not that someone could strip her of her own achievements. Archive footage of Alice has her explaining her frustrating and disbelief, [discussing one of her films] “These are my friends. I wore that outfit as a joke. It was shot in 60 millimeters.” The audience is left feeling robbed for her.

Photo of Alice Guy-Blaché from NPR.

It was obvious what an inspiration and pioneer Alice was. In one reference, the famous Alfred Hitchcock lists her as someone he admired. Others call her rebellious and creative, believing that her films, “stand the test of time.” Today, an interviewee shares, “here is a woman who helped invent cinema and there’s a silence around her.”

While Alice fought to be remembered, she submitted her memoir to hundreds of publications, no one published it until eight years after her death. She says in the archived footage, “I wonder if I am doing all of this for nothing.” Something Alice felt strongly about with her actors was the idea to “Be Natural,” so much so, that she had it painted in big letters at her studio. The idea here was to be the opposite of “posing for photos,” being natural meant authenticity and that the actors should not be phony. Alice’s films focus on an element of truth, built around fiction.

The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché, is a must see for filmmakers, film lovers, or anybody interested in being part of the retelling of history in a factual way. Let’s not forget Alice again.

Movie times: click here

Genre: Documentary

Run Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Director: Pamela B. Green

Actors: N/A

Rating: NR

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Alyssa is a graduate of Coronado High School and was in the founding broadcast journalism class at CHS. She earned her BA in Communication from CSU East Bay and completed her MBA from CSU San Marcos. Her passion for writing and interest in the behind the scenes of business, leads her to write frequently about Coronado businesses. You can find Alyssa walking around the ferry landing with her shih-tzu terrier or enjoying a cup of coffee at one of Coronado's favorite cafes.Have a story for The Coronado Times to cover? Send news tips or story ideas to: manager@coronadotimes.com