Based on the 1994 children’s novel by Karen Cushman, “Catherine Called Birdy” is set in England during the year 1290, and focuses on Lady Catherine (Bella Ramsey), the youngest child of Lord Rollo (Andrew Scott) and Lady Aislinn (Billie Piper). When Catherine’s parents attempt to fix their financial woes by marrying her off to a wealthy man, she counteracts by scaring off her potentials suitors, resulting in tension between the spirited and independent young woman and her traditional parents.
The cast also includes Lesley Sharp, Sophie Okonedo, Joe Alwyn, Isis Hainsworth, Dean-Charles Chapman and Paul Kaye, with Dunham appearing in a supporting role. Dunham directed, wrote the screenplay and produces via her Good Thing Going Banner. Working Title Films is also backing the project, and Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan and Jo Wallet produce alongside Dunham. The film has been described as a “passion project” for Dunham, who first announced her plans to adapt Cushman’s novel in 2014.
“Catherine Called Birdy” is the second Lena Dunham movie to debut this year, after her third feature “Sharp Stick” premiered at Sundance this January, with a theatrical release via Utopia set for July 29. The two films are a major return to film from Dunham, 12 years after her acclaimed sophomore feature “Tiny Furniture” premiered before her HBO comedy “Girls” and other television projects. “Sharp Stick,” which stars Kristine Froseth and Jon Bernthal, received mixed reviews out of Sundance, with Variety chief film critic Owen Gleiberman calling the film Dunham’s “First disappointment.”
The Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 8-18. Shortly after the festival ends, “Catherine Called Birdy” will receive a limited theatrical release starting Sept. 23 via Amazon Studios, prior to streaming on Prime Video on Oct. 7.