The Girl Who Loves Roses is a beautiful and moving five-minute film that focuses on a 17-year-old illustrator, Panteha Abareshi, from Tucson, Arizona. Produced by The Front, a new female-led media platform, and directed by sister art curators Rémy and Kelsey Bennett, the short is the first in a series of films called Under Her Skin which will profile a selection of female artists.
Diagnosed with Sickle Cell Beta Zero Thalassemia – a genetic disease that makes it difficult for her blood circulatory system to carry oxygen and causes chronic pain – when she was just 2 years old, Abareshi was frequently hospitalised for lengthy spells after her condition took a turn for the worse in 2014. While lying in a hospital bed, she told her father to bring her a sketchbook and a set of pens and markers, saying, “In that moment, I really needed something to help me get through the pain.”
Channelling her energy into illustrations, Abareshi began drawing women who, like her, were struggling with pain. Her vibrant pieces explore the idea of black femininity as it relates to concepts of struggle and suffering. Intimate and honest to an extent that almost makes the viewer feel intrusive, her work unflinchingly addresses mental illness and chronic pain.
In the short film, Rémy and Kelsey effectively capture the duelling senses of desperation and hope that live within sufferers of chronic illness and depression. In an interview with Konbini, the sister directors explained why they chose to make Abareshi’s story the focus of the first instalment of Under Her Skin:
"With our first film 'The Girl Who Loves Roses' and through Panteha Abareshi’s story we are hoping to reach out to young people suffering in silence (or without the proper support) from mental illness, anxiety, depression, and physical disabilities. We want to encourage people to speak out and for them to know that someone is listening."