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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOTHER OF CINEMA – Alice Guy-Blaché 1 July 1873 – 24 March 1968

One hundred and forty-seven years ago today,

the world gave us Alice Guy-Blaché

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, all-Black cast, special effects.

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.

Alice Guy or Alice Guy-Blaché (July 1, 1873 – March 24, 1968) was a French pioneer filmmaker, active from the late 19th century, and one of the very first to make a narrative fiction film. She was the first woman to direct a film. From 1896 to 1906, she was probably the only female filmmaker in the world. She experimented with Gaumont’s Chronophone sync-sound system, and with color-tinting, interracial casting, and special effects.

She was artistic director and a co-founder of Solax Studios in Flushing, New York. In 1912, Solax invested $100,000 for a new studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey, the center of American filmmaking prior to the establishment of Hollywood. That year, she made the film A Fool and His Money, probably the first to have an all-African-American cast. The film is now at the National Center for Film and Video Preservation at the American Film Institute.

CELEBRATE BY WATCHING

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché

by Pamela B. Green

(2019)

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. In Be Natural, Pamela B. Green acts as a detective, revealing the real story of Guy-Blaché and highlighting her pioneering contributions to the birth of cinema and her acclaim as a creative force and entrepreneur in the earliest years of movie-making.

Narrated by Jodie Foster, the film features commentary from Diablo Cody, Geena Davis, Julie Delpy, Ava DuVernay, Michel Hazanavicius, Patty Jenkins, Ben Kingsley, Andy Samberg, Agnès Varda, Evan Rachel Wood and more.

Featured in Mark Cousins’ Women Make Film: A Road Movie Through Cinema.

Available to rent and buy BFI Player, BluRay, and Apple TV

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