Just Imagine

Lights! Camera! Alice!: The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker

Authored by Mara Rockliff
Illustrated by Simona Ciraolo
Published by Chronicle Books

Lights! Camera! Alice! is the biography of the ‘Mother of the Movies’, Alice Guy-Blaché, not only the first female filmmaker, but also one of the first people to start making films ever.

Through a combination of narrative, vibrant illustrations, and title cards in the style of Hollywood silent films (which are all titles of the films she made), we follow Alice’s life, starting in 1875 in France, where she spent her early years surrounded by the teetering books of her father’s shop. When her father dies and his business collapses, Alice finds work at a camera company, where the opportunity to make her own films arises. Alice then begins to make a name for herself in French film as her creativity sets her work apart from rival filmmakers, and we read about her successes as she moves to America with her husband.

The book seems to permeate some of the energy which Alice herself must have had. It is surprising therefore, to read the ‘Director’s Cut’ chapter at the back, which explains how Alice got written out of filmmaking history until 1955.

There are many opportunities for this book in the classroom. Firstly, it would be a lovely addition to any lower junior library, and would almost certainly be a popular choice for independent reading. Standalone lessons for International Women’s Day could champion Alice’s story alongside other women’s stories and build activities around it. There is also opportunity for including this book into a Biographies topic in an upper junior classroom where children could get the opportunity to explore the features of different biographies as research before writing their own.