WHITE MOUNTAINS – It is not a surprise in a metropolitan area to find independent films at your local cinema, but it is a huge endeavor in a rural community. Though they have done it before, WME is bringing back independent films to the Village 8 in Lakeside. Now that many have experienced last year’s Show Low Film Festival and have an idea of the personal, creative and artistic touch of an independent filmmaker, WME’s new “Art House Movie Series” is likely to become regular entertainment rather than a now-and-then focus.

The debut film shown Jan. 20-23 was Pamela B. Green’s “Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché.” This film is a tribute documentary of the forgotten 19th Century French pioneer writer, director and producer of over 1,000 short films and 22 features in a time when women were not recognized in the industry. It was narrated by Jodie Foster.

Alice Guy-Blaché was the first woman film director and from 1896-1906, probably the only woman filmmaker in the world, according to Wickipedia.

WME Owner Teddy Croney said it only seemed right to put this film first since it was about filmmaking, and local resident Bob Channing’s late wife Adrienne Channing, was the granddaughter of Alice Guy-Blaché.

After her own mother Roberta Blaché died in2000, Adrienne assumed the task of preserving her grandmother’s legacy. In October 2009, the Arts Alliance of the White Mountains and Northland Pioneer College presented the National Film Board of Canada’s documentary, “Lost Garden” about Blaché, which was narrated on film by Adrienne. Film Scholar Alison McMahon, author of the book, spoke at the Show Low event to honor Adrienne and her part in it.

After Adrienne’s death in 2011, her husband Bob Channing has carried the torch for his wife on behalf of her amazing grandmother. He attended every performance of the film last week. Ironically, Jan. 22 – in the middle of the series dates for the documentary — was the late Adrienne Channing’s birthday.

“How appropriate that, on a day set aside to celebrate equality and human rights, that the birth of cinema also had its origins of motherhood via a woman — Alice Guy-Blaché; yes, the first filmmaker was a woman. This film was eight years in the making and a long time in allowing Alice to have her place in the history of film – a worthy documentary produced by none other than Robert Redford, Hugh Hefner and Jodie Foster.” Channing was likely referring to the recent Women’s March events taking place across the country.

Director of the Arts Alliance of the White Mountains Ann Moore and her husband attended the film. “We attended, knowing the connection of our friend Bob Channing. But we were very surprised to see him as part of this important documentary. The way Alice Guy-Blanché was erased from the historical timeline of the beginning of the film industry was very disheartening. I’d like to think that this film can help correct some of the misconceptions of the important contributions of women, not only in the film industry, but in all aspects of the early 20th century business advancements.”

Scheduled screenings

“Turnover,” produced by White Mountain resident and Show Low Film Festival owner Martina Webster, opened on Jan. 27 with a Q & A after the film. It will run through Jan. 30; this film was a big hit with those who saw it at The Show Low Film Festival.

“No Safe Spaces,” though with no White Mountain resident connection, is the next independent film in the series and will be shown Feb. 3-6. It is a film about identity politics and the suppression of free speech threatening to divide America.

“Uncut Gems,” starring Adam Sandler is the story of a New York City jeweler who is forever looking for the next big score. He makes a series of high-stake bets that could be the windfall of a lifetime. It shows Feb. 10.

“A Hidden Life,” playing Feb. 17 is the story Austrian peasant farmer Franz Jägerstätter, an unsung hero who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II.

Last in the series is “Pain and Glory,” Feb. 24, starring Antonio Banderas who plays a filmmaker in the twilight of his career . Feeling a great emptiness, he takes a trip down memory lane of his life – his mother, his lovers and the actors he worked with. That trip could be his salvation as he faces his mortality.

Croney said she was pleased with the turnout for the first two films in the “Art House Movie Series,” and hopes to offers more independent films as a continuation of the series in the fall.

Tickets for the series are $4.50 each. More information on show times and dates are on WME’s Facebook page under Events and on their webpage at http://www.wmetheatres.com.

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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