Ladies of the Wood

Claus Drexel

IndieLisboa 2021 •

France, Documentary, 2021, 90′

The beginning of this story is a forest that surrounds the city and, in it, strange characters circulate and they’ll tell you their stories, but also receive their customers. In the heart of the forest, they are the ladies of the wood.

The story takes place in a “wood on the outskirts of Paris” as mentioned in the film’s initial credits. This detail seems to install Ladies of the Wood in the fairy tale codes. The autumn colours are superb, the light is soft and a song is heard. The music evokes a feeling of strange wonder. And if ultimately it is not really fairies that Claus Drexel meets, the different interlocutors, trans prostitutes or transvestites, belong to a world that is usually invisible. At most silhouettes or made-up first names, but we rarely look at sex workers as Drexel does in his feature film. Ladies of the Wood is inevitably a political film, so much so that one of the women reminds us of her lack of social protection. How are prostitutes viewed by the authorities? Or rather: how are marginalized people – like women prostitutes -, even those who belong to a margin in the margin - like trans prostituted women -, mistreated by power? Whether by various right-wing French presidents or even by certain left-wing feminists, the margins will always be pushed back, further into the shadows of the woods. (Mickäel Gaspar)