EXCLUSIVE: Zeitgeist Films in association with Kino Lorber announced today that it has acquired North American rights for Pamela B. Green’s documentary, Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché.
Narrated by Jodie Foster, the film centers on the life and accomplishments of the world’s first female filmmaker and had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in the Cannes Classics section, and also screened at the Telluride, New York, Deauville, BFI London film festivals. It recently joined the Documentary Feature Oscar race, and after a qualifying run this year will be rolled out in theaters by Zeitgeist in early 2019, followed later in the year by VOD and home video releases via Kino Lorber.
The terrific and enlightening documentary, which I first wrote about for Deadline after seeing its emotional world premiere in Cannes, plays like a detective biopic in tracing the career and legacy of this pioneering filmmaker and could not be more timely in this era of women finally beginning to get their due in the movie industry. It is a tribute to and celebration of Blaché, the French filmmaker and film executive who started in the movie business in 1894 as a secretary at Gaumont Studios for inventor Léon Gaumont and rose to become Head of Production. In 1896 she wrote, directed and produced one of the first narrative films ever made, La Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy). She directed over a thousand comedies, westerns, dramas that touched on women’s empowerment, child abuse, race, immigration and sexuality and later owned her own production company, Solax, in 1910 in New York.
She was one of the first directors to use important film techniques like synchronized sound and pioneered the development of naturalistic acting for the screen, now taken for granted. A sign was even posted up in her studio that read “Be Natural.” In 1912, she directed A Fool and His Money, one of the earliest surviving all-black-cast films. Her career came to an abrupt end by 1919, and she and her films largely were forgotten.
Over the course of eight years, Green researched and traced the circumstances of how this trailblazer faded from cinema history in an industry that she had helped create. The film also features interviews with the subject’s daughter Simone Blaché, Evan Rachel Wood, Ava DuVernay, Catherine Hardwicke, Geena Davis, Julie Taymor, Julie Delpy, Gale Anne Hurd and many more.
The deal was negotiated by Kino Lorber Senior Vice President Wendy Lidell and Andrew Herwitz, President of The Film Sales Company.
“We couldn’t think of a better way to continue our commitment to resurrecting the work of Alice Guy-Blaché than with Be Natural,” Lidell said. “Pamela B. Green’s engaging documentary is the perfect complement to our collection of over 75 restored Alice Guy-Blaché titles, 14 in the Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers collection and 64 in the Gaumont collection. Our sister company Zeitgeist, with their unrivaled track record releasing films by women, is the perfect team to execute a top notch theatrical release for Pamela’s audience-friendly film.”
Said Zeitgeist Films co-founders Nancy Gerstman and Emily Russo: “We couldn’t be more enthused to begin working on Pamela B. Green’s brilliant film. Alice Guy-Blaché directed over 1,000 films from 1896 to 1920, as well as being one of the only women to manage her own studio during that period, yet she remains relatively unknown. We feel it is our duty and pleasure to help acquaint audiences with this formidable woman.”
Pamela B. Green, who has worked diligently to get this film completed, said: “I’m very excited about working with the Zeitgeist and Kino Lorber teams on getting the story of a woman we all ought to know — Alice Guy Blaché, the mother of cinema — out into the world.”
Here is the trailer: