Synopsis: The story goes that girls who run away into the Maidenswood become the Maidenswood. Girls fleeing violence, abuse, grief and despair can find refuge in the dark forest on the edge of town, where they transform into the trees, bushes and flowers which make up the woods. Diana, a young girl reeling from the return of her abusive father, begins to have visions of a girl in the forest. Unable to resist the Maidenswood’s call, Diana ventures into the woods, where she discovers a world with little resemblance to the ghost stories she’s been told all her life. However, entrance to this strange paradise comes at a price, one that Diana struggles to comprehend. Back home, Diana’s father continues to reassert his dominance over the household. Diana’s mother, like many women, has learned how to survive the whims and impulses of violent men, and she urges Diana to do the same. Diana soon faces a choice that all the girls of the Maidenswood once faced—survival or freedom?
Soli Reid (Mother)
Zaarin Bushra (Girl in the Woods)
James L. Evans (Father)
I always found it interesting that certain ancient goddesses were associated with both the wilderness and young, unmarried girls—as if there’s something wild about girls who haven’t yet become subject to the social constraints and traumas of womanhood. In a patriarchal culture, the transition from girlhood into womanhood is usually marked by a “loss” of sexual purity, but for me, the true loss of innocence occurs when a girl is first confronted by the reality of misogyny. For girls, puberty is not just uncomfortable, it is traumatic. It means coming to terms with your suddenly inferior status and the violence, abuse and oppression of patriarchal society that you will be subjected to for the rest of your life.
Our protagonist Diana is undergoing this painful transition. Like Diana, I roamed in forests, climbed trees and dug for worms when I was a girl. Why did I stop? Men say a woman’s place is the home, but, statistically, home is the most dangerous place for a woman to be. I wanted to explore the connection of young girls to nature, before they become women and are forced back into the patriarchal home. Diana’s mother, like many victims of abuse, believes that there is no other alternative path for women in their position, and has learned to survive as best she can. She urges Diana to do the same.
But what if there was an alternative? The Maidenswood is my version of a folktale, telling of a forest that harbours the spirits of young girls in its trees, bushes, animals, and flowers. It is a story of lost innocence; of girls who saw the rest of their lives as women in this world laid out in front of them, full of violence and pain and loss, and said “anything but this.” They can’t be sure if the Maidenswood is a paradise or a purgatory or a prison, but we have given them no other option.
Kasia Peruzzi is a writer, director and production designer from Toronto, Canada. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto with a bachelor’s degree in Cinema Studies and History. She has previously been involved in Toronto’s community theatre scene as an actor, costume designer and playwright. The Maidenswood is her first film.