Meet the first lady director of cinema

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, when narrative filmmaking was still at its nascent stage, a French woman named Alice Guy-Blache had, arguably, already directed the world’s first fiction film.

Alice Guy-Blache

Unfortunately though, very few people might have heard of Guy-Blache, who was also the world’s first woman director. Today, The Lost Garden, a 55-minute-long film, will introduce Mumbaikars to this visionary filmmaker.

Directed by Canadian filmmaker Marquise Lepage, the 1995 film offers a glimpse into the cinema and life of Guy-Blache using restored clips from her films, cleverly juxtaposed with her TV interviews, photographs and anecdotes from her family members.

Stills from The Lost Garden

Born in 1873 in Paris, France, Guy-Blache also started her filmmaking career in 1896 with the Gaumont Film Company, where she helped develop narrative filmmaking, and pioneered the use of sound and film together.

After she moved to the US with husband Herbert Blache, in 1910, Guy-Blache started The Solax Company — the world’s first and only film studio run by a woman — in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

The studio went on to become the largest pre-Hollywood Studio in America. But the company went bankrupt by 1914. Guy-Blaché began to work independently, making films till 1922 when she moved back to France.

During her 26-year career as a filmmaker, Guy-Blaché was responsible for over 700 films including several of her own directions like Dick Willington and Her Cat, which was made with a budget of USD 35,000, thereby showcasing to the world the vision of a great filmmaker.

Unfortunately, most of her works have either been lost or destroyed, and The Lost Garden presents whatever is left of her legacy. Don’t miss this one.

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