History, by its very nature, is reductive. There’s simply too much to consider, too many players to figure, and too many stories to remember. To the victor go the spoils the saying goes. And when the history of cinema was written, the contributions and inventions of men were exalted while another gender was almost eradicated. Take Film History 101, or pick up one of the standard intro texts, and you might think the only women involved in the early days of filmmaking were those positioned in front of the camera.
That’s beginning to change. Thanks primarily through Blu-Ray/DVD and streaming services. Kino Lorber’s massive box set, Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers, and Flicker Alley’s Early Women Filmmakers: An International Anthology are a great place to start. These are inventive and impressive works that must be considered alongside the works of Georges Méliès, Edwin S. Porter, and D.W. Griffith. And chief among those who stand shoulder-to-shoulder: Alice Guy-Blaché.
There’s no need to re-hash Guy-Blaché’s story here as Pamela B. Greene’s documentary Be Natural — The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché covers all the basics. I favorably reviewed the documentary for the Boulder Weekly when it did a three-theatre stint back in February, and now the movie is available on Kanopy, which eliminates all excuses for those who haven’t seen it.
Kanopy also has 24 films from Flicker Alley’s Early Women Filmmakers. Adventure awaits.