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‘Room’s Lenny Abrahamson Lights Up FBI Siege Tale ‘Burning Rainbow Farm’

Deadline logo Deadline 3/22/2017 Mike Fleming Jr
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EXCLUSIVE: Anonymous Content, Element Pictures and Film4 have optioned the Dean Kuipers book Burning Rainbow Farm, and will develop it as a directing vehicle for Room helmer Lenny Abrahamson. Playwright Cory Finley, who made his directing debut with the Sundance pic Thoroughbred, will write the script. It is the true story of two marijuana advocates who were gunned down by the FBI after a five-day standoff. Anonymous Content’s Adam Shulman and Mad Dog Films’ Alix Madigan will produce with Element’s Ed Guiney and Abrahamson. Steve Golin and Andrew Lowe will be exec producers alongside Film4’s Daniel Battsek.

Rainbow Farm was a peaceful, pot-friendly haven in rural Michigan, hatched in the 1990s by life partners Tom Crosslin and Rollie Rohm. Their annual hemp and music festivals led them toward becoming a catalyst for marijuana legalization in the state. Their festivals were well attended and High Times magazine judged the farm one of the top stoner travel spots in the country. But Crosslin and Rohm grew increasingly bold with their cultivation of marijuana plants. After an accident involving a teen attendee of one of their festivals who crashed his car and died, the farm was raided and the hippie couple was charged with possession of a firearm and for cultivating 200 plants. Their son was removed from their home and placed in foster care.

In an act of defiance, Crosslin and Rohm skipped their appointed court date on their criminal case, and torched Rainbow Farm. County officials called the FBI. A five-day standoff erupted, with shots fired,  and the couple was eventually shot dead. The siege might have created more of a public outcry, but it happened days before the 9/11 terror attacks. The book was published in 2006.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the tension in U.S. political discourse between various ideals of personal liberty and the perceived threats against them from the state,” said Abrahamson, who was Oscar-nominated for his last film, Room. “The intensely moving and tragic story of Tom and Rollie and the fate of Rainbow Farm, brilliantly captured and contextualized in Dean Kuiper’s excellent book, is a vivid and compelling way of dramatizing a fundamental fracture which continues to define U.S. society today. I’m delighted to be working with such great producers as Alix and Adam, alongside my partner Ed Guiney and very excited to be collaborating with Cory Finley, who is an exceptional talent.”

Finley’s Sundance debut Thoroughbred was acquired by Focus Features after its premiere.

Abrahamson is represented by WME and Casarotto Ramsay; Finley by ICM Partners. Element previously teamed with Film4 on Room and also The Lobster, and Anonymous Content’s credits include Spotlight and The Revenant.

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