In Lena Dunham’s Toronto International Film Festival premiere “Catherine Called Birdy,” the director adapts one of her favorite childhood books, Karen Cushman’s 1994 middle-grade novel about a 12 year-old noble women’s rebellion against her father’s attempts to marry her off. Speaking about her love of the original book, Dunham said it stuck with her because of its protagonist’s refusal to stick to the fate forced on her by her family, and the way the story rewards her strength of spirit.
“That kind of energy from a young woman, it gives me chills down my spine,”Dunham stated at Variety Studio presented by King’s Hawaiian at TIFF. “I think it’s the kind of energy that we still need, in order to deal with the current climate in the U.S. around women and bodily autonomy. When you don’t know what to do, the unrelenting power of a unifying no is really incredible.”
Dunham was joined Variety Studio by “Catherine Called Birdy”Stars Bella Ramsey and Andrew Scott. Joe Alwyn, Isis Haisworth. In conversation with Variety film and media reporter Matt Donnelly, the five discussed the film and how its themes of rebellion and women’s rights in the Middle Ages can resonate today in a modern context.
“It’s been a very painful time for women, for people for uteruses, for people who care about women and for people who care about people with uteruses,”Dunham said. “I think what’s given me hope is even people who maybe normally wouldn’t have spoken out about this issue maybe five or six years ago are really comfortable coming forward and saying ‘We’re not okay with this, this does not work, this is really dangerous and one of us suffers all of us suffer.’”
It is a reflection of modern themes about bodily autonomy, but it is not original. “Catherine Called Birdy” also reflects what childbirth was like at the time period through a storyline involving Scott’s character and his wife (Billie Piper), who is pregnant and goes through a painful childbirth. Dunham claims Dunham was able see the graphic scenes because Dunham had read the script.
“Literally I feel so embarrassed because I cry at my own movie every time,”Dunham said.
After “Catherine Called Birdy,” Dunham will next take on another of her childhood favorite’s with a film adaptation of the Polly Pocket toyline. During the interview, Dunham revealed she’s currently working on the script and that the film will involve many “little person vs. big item” scenes.
“Every time I discuss it with a woman around my age, the incredible stories I get of them stepping on or swallowing ‘Polly Pockets’ is never ending,”Dunham stated.
“Catherine Called Birdy”Premiered at TIFF in September 12. Amazon Studios will release the film in select theaters starting September 23. Prime Video will premiere it Oct. 7.
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