Following her feature length debut as writer-director – 2014’s The Babadook – the level of interest in Jennifer Kent’s movie choices increased exponentially – such was the impact of her award-winning horror film. It seems that the choice of next project has now been made and Kent has been officially declared the writer-director of Alice + Freda – the upcoming film adaptation of the Alexis Coe non-fiction book, Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder In Memphis.
The dark and tragic real-life events that are detailed in the book took place in America in 1892, when 19 year old Alice Mitchell publicly slashed the throat of 17 year old Freda Ward. As the case unfolded in a well-observed trial, it transpired that Alice and Freda had once enjoyed a relationship so happy that Alice had planned to pose as a man in order to marry the woman she loved.
However, when their love letters were discovered, and their romance was exposed, the two were separated by both their families and by a scandalized community. The heartbreak of Alice was further compounded by Freda’s apparent willingness to accept the enforced end to their engagement – a perception which directly contributed to Alice’s violent, murderous action. The outcome of the trial saw Alice declared insane – not only for perpetrating the murder, but also for her sexuality – and she was consequently confined to an asylum. She later died there, though the circumstances of her death remain a mystery.
The book was published in October 2014 and the rights to it were quickly snapped up by Sidney Kimmel Entertainment. Berlanti Productions are now on board to produce, and that company’s Sarah Schechter explained the choice of writer-director.
“Jennifer Kent was my first choice from the moment I read Coe’s exceptional book. 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. We are thrilled to have Sidney Kimmel Entertainment as our partners.”
Alice + Freda has the potential to be something very special indeed. In addition to exploring the struggles of two young women in a same-sex relationship in America in 1892, the source material also examines the social injustices that caused their separation and the prejudices faced by Alice during her trial and incarceration. Given the extraordinary talent of writer-director Jennifer Kent, it is reasonable to assume that this adaptation will go some way to illustrate the ways in which these issues are still present today – despite the social progress made during the intervening century.
The production is in its earliest stages, but the casting process should ultimately create a film that showcases two young and talented actresses. That aspect of Alice + Freda is perhaps the most exciting of all – particularly when those two young actresses are set to be written for and directed by Jennifer Kent.