Lena Dunham’s Coming-of-Age Catherine Called Birdy to Premiere at Toronto Film Festival

HBO’s Girls creator and star Lena Dunham’s upcoming coming-of-age comedy Catherine Called Birdy will have its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Dunham wrote and directed the film, an adaptation of the historical children’s novel of the same name by Karen Cushman. Set in the medieval English village of Stonebridge, Catherine Called Birdy is told through the diary of spirited 13-year-old Lady Catherine (known as Birdy), whose family and manor have seen better days.

When her financially-ruined father decides to marry her off to a wealthy man for money and land, the headstrong and clever Birdy figures out how to send away her several suitors. Though she’s able to dissuade most, her father ultimately demands she marry an old, repulsive man she names “Shaggy Beard.” As Birdy resists the marriage, she questions family, love, and responsibility.

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Game of Thrones’ Bella Ramsey stars as the adventurous Birdy; Billie Piper (Doctor Who) and Andrew Scott (Sherlock, Fleabag) join the cast as Birdy’s parents. Joe Alwyn, Lesley Sharp, Sophie Okonedo, Paul Kaye, Dean-Charles Chapman, and Isis Hainsworth round out the cast.

In addition to writing and directing, Dunham serves as a producer on the film alongside Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan, and Jo Wallett.

‘Huge Challenges to Being a Woman’: Dunham Highlights Thematic Similarities to Modern Day

For Lena Dunham, part of the appeal of adapting Catherine Called Birdy for the big screen was highlighting the parallels between the medieval themes of the novel and modern problems.

“I wanted to highlight this girl who was living in the wrong time. If she was living in 2022, she would be a pretty classic tomboy or able to explore the gender binary, she’d be able to play all the sports she wanted,” Dunham told Teen Vogue in an interview. “All of her dreams, which in 1290 are to go to a hanging and run around without a skirt on, would be achievable. But there are still as we know, huge challenges to being a woman in this day and age, and a teenage girl.”

“While it feels very far away that a 13-year-old is being asked to marry a 50-year-old, we still have plenty of barbaric customs that control the way people’s bodies are dealt with,” she continued, referencing the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“There’s so many aspects to modern life that still speak to themes of the book. I really love that we were able to highlight aspects of that, and the way the world has changed but also the way it’s stayed the same. And do it with some humor.”

Following its debut at the Toronto Film Festival, Catherine Called Birdy will hit theaters on September 23; the film will launch on Prime Video on October 7.