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; the first to use close-ups, hand-tinted images and synchronised sound. It’s not necessary to accept all these claims to recognise that Alice Guy was an extraordinary woman who deserves her place in cinematic history and a place in the canon. This is why, at the beginning of the year, Birds’ Eye View commissioned local Lambeth artist, Ruby Wright to create a banner in tribute to this little-known filmmaker. The banner was unveiled on 4th January 2020 by Birds’ Eye View’s Director-At-Large, Mia Bays, at Genesis Cinema (one of our partner cinema), prior to our first Reclaim The Frame screening of the the wonderful documentary film: Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché, directed by Pamela B. Green.
Banner artist, Ruby Wright has worked for BBC Radio 4, Arts Council England and The Architecture Foundation, and has had radio pieces broadcast on Resonance FM in London and NPR in the United States. She is currently Artist in Residence at UCL: “Birds’ Eye View commissioned me to make an artwork to celebrate the release of Be Natural, and as Alice Guy Blaché was making films at exactly the time the suffragettes were fighting to be given the vote, it seemed obvious to make an appliquéd banner inspired by political protest banners. The design was cut from scraps of fabric and sewn on the 1950s Singer sewing machine which I inherited from my granny.”
The banner is soon to be hosted by The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum at the University of Exeter – home to one of the largest collections of material relating to the moving image in Britain. They are both an accredited public museum and an academic research facility and they hold a collection of over 75,000 items. Over 1,000 of their items are on display in our Galleries and are available to be viewed by the public 7 days a week.
Phil Wickham, Curator of The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, said: “We were delighted to acquire the beautiful banner promoting the release of ‘Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché’ for our collections. We hope to display the banner in our galleries and it will be available to look at for researchers and anyone interested in film. The museum has an internationally recognised collection of artefacts and ephemera on early cinema and the banner represents the importance of both the work of Alice Guy-Blache’ within that history and the need for the contribution of female filmmakers to be recognised.”
Helen Hanson, Associate Professor of Film History, University of Exeter (guest speaker at our RTF screening at Exeter Phoenix on Feb 11th), said “It was a pleasure to be part of Reclaim the Frame’s screening of ‘Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché. The event shone a light on the amazing filmmaker, and the foundational role women had at the very beginnings of cinema as a storytelling medium and an industry, and the audience were able to see film history differently.”
Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché
Director – Pamela B.Green