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Film Spotlight

Ashes of Roses
directed by Sasha Waters, US, 11:30


Sasha Waters takes a faint concept— the color of Meg’s (Rachel Ward) dress in the 1983 miniseries The Thorn Birds— and imbues it with a nuanced introspection of her own teenage years. Appropriately titled, Ashes of Roses brings forward the different ways we process complex and troubling topics, even if they do not appear as such at the time. With intimate storytelling and parallel imagery, Waters gives us a visually figurative approach to understanding a history that is not our own but which remains important and relevant. The film convincingly suggests that we must learn to peel back the curtains of our past to demystify it, because doing so demonstrates how far we have come in character and self-actualization. 


In voiceover narration, Waters explains the significance of her title: “Ashes of roses: a color, a concept, intimately connected to my adolescent understanding of romantic love as a mix of secret yearning, unfulfilled longing, waiting submission, and self-sacrifice. Requited love, but forbidden.” She relates her photos and videos to her narration for most of the film. We watch a blazing fire when discussing the horror of Paddy’s death in The Thorn Birds. When we learn her schoolteacher, “Mr C,” wrote an inappropriate message in her yearbook, we follow along with her reading of that message. Abstractly, Waters uses visuals from the TV series/book she loved so much as a child to discuss the more difficult topics, like Number 10 consuming her and Ralph consuming Meggie. She perfects her film with an eloquent selection of floral imagery, beautifully encapsulating the innocent and delicate tone of the film. 


She experiments on the visual format with precision and consideration. Her use of simultaneous presentation aligns with the aforementioned series of images, such as chronological scenes from The Thorn Birds and Meg’s romance alongside a bush of flowers. She weaves in shots of her daughters now the same age she was through a vintage-esque lens. Some parts try to maintain their old age while others try to exude their youth.


In a prologue, two parts, and an epilogue, Sasha Waters tells a story of misguided love, of licentious men, of color, and of their confluence— all in an almost documentary-style approach. In Ashes for Roses, we are given a mother’s experience with adolescence to prepare us for when we will one day find ourselves staring at a wildflower and reflecting on past times. 


- Kathryn Odum, BFA Film Production and BA English ‘26

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