If you don’t know who Alice Guy-Blache was, don’t worry. Not even most film studies graduates have heard of her. But they and you and everyone else should learn about this pioneering filmmaker, who is too often left out of the film history books, and fortunately now there’s a documentary in the works to help educate us. This feature film is titled Be Natural, and it already has some major support in the form of executive producer Robert Redford, narrator Jodie Foster and a whole ton of famous faces recruited to talk about what they know (and don’t know) about the first female motion picture director, including Redford, Diablo Cody, Catherine Hardwicke, Julie Taymor, Julie Delpy, Peter Billingsley, Jon Chu, Kevin Macdonald, Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Ben Kingsley.
But the doc, which is being helmed by Pamela B. Green and Jarik Van Sluijs (title credits producers/designers for numerous movies, including three of Redford’s own — see their reel here), is in need of additional funding. So it’s up on Kickstarter with a goal of $200K. The money will go to many things, including further research around the world and the discovery and accumulation of old film clips, much of which requires preservation, plus special effects. Yes, special effects, to achieve this: ”The film will boast 2D and 3D CGI recreations of the locations, technologies, objects, and settings of Alice’s story.” How awesome will it be for computer animations that put us back at the turn of the 20th century virtually watching the production of some of cinema’s earliest works of fiction?
The Kickstarter campaign video makes Alice Guy-Blache sound like the Rodriguez (Searching for Sugar Man) of film and this project as more an investigatory work than I assume it actually is. And the shot of Kingsley drinking wine while being interviewed makes it look a little more casual than I’m hoping for. Guy-Blache is not exactly unknown to major film scholars — we actually learned about her in a women in film/feminist film theory type course during my undergrad years at Brooklyn College. If you’ve seen Mark Cousins’ recent historical miniseries The Story of Film (and if not and you love movies you ought to), he mentions her early on and includes a clip from her 1912 short Falling Leaves.
Still, she’s far less known than is necessary for someone of her achievements. I expect a thorough look at her life and work and also some exploration into the reasons she’s not as famous — much of which is likely as obvious as that she was a woman. In the wake of recently watching Cousins’ series and this week’s HBO premiere of Casting By, I’m hungry for more docs on film history. You’d expect to maybe get this sort of thing on TCM, but with a price tag and names as big as Be Natural has, I’m hoping for at least some festival screenings, more than likely at least a Sundance debut. Given that the estimated delivery for most final result incentives is December 2014, let’s expect a January 2015 bow in Park City.
Watch the current trailer for the doc below, and visit the Kickstarter page to watch the more in-depth campaign video.