French director Alice Guy-Blaché was the world’s first female film director, and on Tuesday night her life was honored at the Los Angeles premiere of Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché at the Harmony Gold Theater, where Jodie Foster, Peter Farrelly and Kiernan Shipka were all present to honor the life of the pioneering director.
in 1896, Guy-Blaché helmed La Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy), which some historians consider to be the first narrative film ever made. During her career, she wrote, directed and produced more than 1,000 films, and in 1910 she co-founded Solax Studios, which was the largest pre-Hollywood studio in America.
Pamela B. Green directed the documentary, and she spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the huge impact Guy-Blaché had on film history. “She was there when there was no cinema,” said Green. “It was so primitive. There was no story. There was very little story development. She really worked on the weaving of the story with humor and all of these different things, and she showed people and she influenced what can be done with cinema, and I think that’s pretty special.”
Foster told THR why Guy-Blaché was such an important figure to her: “I think the thing she did that was most impactful that we still feel today is that she was the first one to understand the power of naturalism. Her famous motto is, ‘Be natural.’ It’s what she said to all the actors. She had it written on her studio at Solax Studios, up above the roof. This idea of being one’s self and being authentic and being real, that was really forward thinking at that time.”
Foster also told reporters how she views her own helming career: “As a director, I’m still searching. I’m young as a director, so I still have so much more to learn. I don’t think there’s any part of me that feels like I deserve something I have gotten. If anything, I was incredibly lucky at a very young age to have had lots of experience with some of the guys that had the ability to give me my first job as a director and they trusted me. At 27 years old to trust a woman with a substantial movie is something I’ll never forget.”
“I’m for sure going to be acting a lot when I’m 70 and 80,” Foster told reporters when asked about the future of her career in front of the camera.
The doc’s conclusion was greeted with rapturous applause, and following the screening, Farrelly was effusive in his praise of the film, telling Green, “I loved it. Thanks for the education, by the way, because I knew nothing about her before this.”
An afterparty was held in the theater’s lobby, where guests sipped champagne and dined on cheese puffs, sliders and finger sandwiches.
Be Natural is set to open April 19 in L.A. and April 26 in New York, and will expand nationwide later in the spring.