Jennifer Kent has announced her follow-up to “The Babadook”: the story of a broken engagement between two 19th-century teenage girls that leads to the murder of one by the other.
Based on Alexis Coe’s nonfiction book of the same name, “Alice + Freda Forever” then finds 19-year-old Alice Mitchell tried not for murder, but for insanity, as mental impairment was the only one the people around Mitchell could explain her declarations of love for the 17-year-old girl whose throat she cut.
The 1892 case became a media sensation at the time.
“Jennifer Kent was my first choice from the moment I read Coe’s exceptional book,” producer Sarah Schechter said. “Jennifer’s debut film was one of the most accomplished I have ever seen, and I’m thrilled she shares the same passion for telling this powerful, intense and unfortunately still timely story.”
Here’s the book synopsis for “Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis”:
In 1892, America was obsessed with a teenage murderess, but it wasn’t her crime that shocked the nation — it was her motivation. Nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell had planned to pass as a man in order to marry her seventeen-year-old fiancée Freda Ward, but when their love letters were discovered, they were forbidden from ever speaking again.
Freda adjusted to this fate with an ease that stunned a heartbroken Alice. Her desperation grew with each unanswered letter — and her father’s razor soon went missing. On January 25, Alice publicly slashed her ex-fiancée’s throat. Her same-sex love was deemed insane by her father that very night, and medical experts agreed: This was a dangerous and incurable perversion. As the courtroom was expanded to accommodate national interest, Alice spent months in jail — including the night that three of her fellow prisoners were lynched (an event which captured the attention of journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells). After a jury of “the finest men in Memphis” declared Alice insane, she was remanded to an asylum, where she died under mysterious circumstances just a few years later.