2020 Cinematic Feature

Here is the shortlist for our 2020’s Cinematic Feature category, recognising uses of archival footage in feature documentaries or films which are cinematic in ambition and scope but not necessarily limited to traditional cinema releases. They may be feature documentaries that rely on archival footage to drive the narrative or feature fiction that uses archival footage astutely to clarify or enhance the storytelling in an essential way. 

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché

Director: Pamela B. Green
Archive Researcher(s):Pamela B. Green, Cosima Littlewood, Joan Simon, Daniela Roth and Christine Leteux.
Archival Sources: Swedish Film Institute, Library of Congress, Lobster Films, EYE Film Institute, Gaumont-Pathé Archives
Production Company: Be Natural Productions
Country of Production: United States, United Kingdom
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTrAe9J8ZM0

Synopsis: When Alice Guy-Blaché completed her first film in 1896 Paris, she was not only the first female filmmaker, but one of the first directors ever to make a narrative film. Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché follows her rise from Gaumont secretary to her appointment as head of production in 1897, and her subsequent illustrious 20-year career in France and in the United States.

Archival highlights: A film that was instrumental in increasing the profile of its subject by contributing to the ongoing discoveries of her work by finding 15 films prior thought lost and incorporating them into the film itself.

They Call Me Babu

Director: Sandra Beerends
Archive Researcher(s): Hans van der Berg, Dorette Schootemeijer
Archival Sources: Eye Filmmuseum, Sound and Vision Netherlands
Production Company: Pieter van Huystee Film
Country of Production: Netherlands
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flSkgW_UjY4

Synopsis: They Call me Babu is a film about native Indonesian girls working as nannies (pembantu) for the colonial Dutch. Set against the backdrop of the Second World War and the struggles for independence in Indonesia, the film is told from the perspective of Alima, beginning with her decision to flee from an arranged marriage to work as a pembantu. Alima tells her story over unique footage from various archives.

FOCAL Points: Drawing from over 500 sources, They Call me Babu weaves home movies filmed in the Dutch colonies into a memorable and personable commentary on colonialism and Indonesia’s struggle for independence.


Director: Frédéric Tcheng
Archive Researcher(s): Paul Dallas
Archival Sources: NBC, Halston Real LLC, Lesley Frowick, Videofashion, Anton Perich
Production Company: CNN Films, Dogwoof Pictures, TDog, Possibility Entertainment, Sharp House, Gloss Studio
Country of Production: United States
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pG499lzVjBE

Synopsis: From Iowa to Studio 54 to Wall Street, Halston lived an American dream. Prodigiously talented, he reigned over fashion in the 1970s, becoming a household name. But everything changed in the Wall Street era. With his empire under threat, Halston takes the biggest gamble of his life.

Archival Highlights: Amongst a treasure trove of material from the Halston company archives, this biopic concerning the fashion icon also utilises the raw tapes from a never-aired NBC documentary about Halston’s business in China.

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound

Director: Midge Costin
Archive Researcher(s): Samantha Casey, Susan Ricketts
Archival Sources: American Zoetrope, Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox, Ben Burtt, Amblin Entertainment
Production Company: Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet Corp, GoodMovies Entertainment
Country of Production: United States
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsIE4x3xU0Y

Synopsis: Through film clips, interviews and verité footage, Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound captures the history, impact and creative process of sound in cinema through the insights and stories of legendary directors such as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, David Lynch, Barbra Streisand, Ang Lee, Christopher Nolan, Sofia Coppola and Ryan Coogler, and the sound men and women with whom they collaborate.

FOCAL Points: Weaving together film clips and behind-the-scenes footage and material, this documentary contextualises the technological changes in cinematic sound since its emergence.