Following the success of “The Babadook” and “The Nightingale,” Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent is close to locking a deal with Amazon Studios to finance her next project, the true crime thriller “Alice + Freda Forever.” (Via Deadline). Based on the book by Alexis Coe, the thriller tells the true-life story of two teenage girls whose intense romance turns into an unstable and violent obsession. Dubbed “A Very Unnatural Crime” at the time by the sensationalist press, the 1892 Memphis, Tennessee case captivated the American public and was largely responsible for launching the murderous lesbian trope in literature that persists in pop culture today.
Kent is set to write the adaptation as well as direct. Greg Berlanti, Sidney Kimmel, Sarah Schechter and John Penotti are producing, with a summer 2020 production planned. Negotiations are ongoing for Amazon Studios to finance the project and gain world distribution rights.
Berlanti is a powerhouse out gay producer, having ushered in the gay TV boom with such LGBTQ-positive shows as “Supergirl,” “Arrow,” “Riverdale,” and “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.” He directed last year’s groundbreaking gay coming-of-age YA adaptation “Love, Simon,” the first major studio movie of its kind.
For her 2014 non-fiction book, Coe drew on research from more than 100 love letters, maps, artifacts, historical documents, newspaper articles and courtroom proceedings to tell the tragic, real-life love story of Alice Mitchell and Freda Ward. When their love letters were discovered, the young lovers were forbidden to contact each other again. When Ward makes the adjustment, heartsick Mitchell is driven to jealous rage and murder. On February 23, 1892, the 19-year-old Mitchell cut the throat of 17-year-old Ward. Part of Mitchell’s defense labelled her a “regular tomboy,” beginning the first public discourse on the “mannish lesbian.”
Kent has been attached to the project since as early as 2015, when Sidney Kimmel Entertainment tapped the writer/director to adapt Coe’s book following the 2014 release of her smash hit debut “The Babadook.”
Kent has recently made headlines for speaking publicly about the dearth of films from women directors at top tier festivals. She recently withdrew from juror duties at the Venice Film Festival, citing personal reasons.