When I first started, I didn’t see any women on film sets. Interview with Jodie Foster

Véronique Le Bris
Véronique Le Bris

"When I first started, I didn't see any women on film sets"

Jodie Foster is the narrator and co-producer of the documentary that the American Pamela B. Green devoted to the story of Alice Guy, the first director in the world, forgotten since, who finally will be released in France on March 18, 2020. During the presentation of Be natural to Prince Albert of Monaco, Jodie Foster gave us an interview in which she talks about her desire for cinema from childhood but with no role-models. Is Jodie Foster a feminist? In her way !

Have you ever heard of Alice Guy before Pamela B. Green told you about it?

No, and yet I spent my life in the cinema. I had never heard of her, unlike Gaumont or the Lumières brothers. I didn't even know that there was a female filmmaker in their day.

Why are you involved in this film then?

Pamela had to know that I spoke French and that French cinema interested me. I should have offered to help her...

How did you find Alice Guy and her work?

Pamela took at least eight years to complete her research. So I discovered the story as I went along when she sent me little part of the editing of her film. I was surprised, but also inspired!


I started cinema very young. On the sets, I only met men, and sometimes, the makeup artist, the script or the lady who played my mother. Women started appearing in the late 1970s. And again ... In my entire career, I have been very rarely - four times - directed by a woman. It’s inspiring to know that someone in the early days of cinema had the same desire for creation as I did.

When did you notice the lack of women in the cinema?

When I was a little girl. My ambition was to make movies but I never saw a woman in this position. I had vaguely heard of Ida Lupino but had never seen any of her films. When I asked my mother, she advised me to write because no one would give me a film as a director if I couldn't write. So I studied English literature at Yale University. And I directed my first film, Little Man Tate at 26.

Do you think a female director tells stories in a different way than male do ?

Alice Guy liked naturalistic cinema and was interested in everyday life, in the real life of people. She was the first one who shot a film with an entirely African-American cast or another on family planning. In this, she differed from the directors of her time. It’s a complex issue that I think depends more on the experience than the gender of the director. Jonathan Demme was very feminine in his approach whereas Kathryn Bigelow swears by virility.

Why did you give up the idea of making a biopic about Leni Riefensthal?

Because I’ve never had a good enough script. Too bad ! Her story is interesting even if complicated from an ethical point of view. In my opinion, the artist has a responsibility: he must be very deep psychologically and morally.

You bought the American remake rights for Woman at war by Benedikt Erlingsson. What are you going to do with it?

At the moment, I'm writing the screenplay. I keep the essentials: her activism, the story about her motherhood but I Americanize her. I’m also the producer, director and main actress.

Is this your way of being a feminist?

I am through my films.

Do you think Hollywood is changing?

It seems to me that diversity is starting to be more important there. What has changed is that the cinema of majors has become that of franchises. Creativity is now on cable, on HBO, Amazon or Netflix, where there are lots of women!