Arthur Allan Seidelman is to direct Chickadee, the true story of an Italian immigrant girl who takes her abusive grandfather to court and wins a landmark ruling.

The $6m film, which is in pre-production in upstate New York, has been written by Tom and Lora Lee Ecobelli and is based on the memoirs of their grandmother. It is their first feature film.

The cast includes Julie Kavner, best known for long-running role as the voice of Marge Simpson in the animated TV series, and Oscar-winner Chris Cooper is also rumoured to have signed up.

The film will tell the story of 13 year old Laurina Inzinna Ecobelli, who in spread of enormous family pressure to remain silent took her stepfather to court after she become pregnant following his sexual abuse and prevailed in a landmark trial.

It will be produced by Manuel Freedman, Sylvia Caminer and the Ecobellis in association with Entpro.

Seidelman made his directorial debut in 1970 with comedy-action film, Hercules In New York, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, but a majority of his career has been spent in TV including episodes of Fame, Knots Landing and Hill Street Blues, as well as TV movies including a Christmas Carol and Macbeth.