From the Ashes is a Saudi Arabian film that takes inspiration from a true story about an all-girls high school where a fire broke out, putting the girls in grave danger. The story shows us the lives of girls in Saudi Arabian schools and what they must do in order to pursue an education. The school is very strict and run by Principal Hayat, a woman who is in the middle of divorce procedures. On top of that, her daughter also goes to the same school, so she’s desperate for her to do the best in her class, always comparing her to the top student and pressuring her to do better. The film mainly focuses on a few girls in the school who get caught in a mess when a completely out-of-control fire breaks out in the school. Desperate for answers, Principal Hayat may go to any length to know what really went down that day. Let’s find out what happens at the end of From the Ashes.
What Happens In The Film?
Every day, girls go to School 2300, completely covered from head to toe. When they get inside the school, the gates are locked, and the girls can uncover their heads. In school, there are strict rules: you can’t carry certain items, your nails can’t be painted, etc. The teachers check on the girls in an assembly where they also announce the best grade and outstanding student. Apparently, it’s always the one girl, Amira, who is the best student in the school. Some of Amira’s classmates don’t appreciate this, though. They bully her for being too smart, ratting them out to the teachers all the time. In their first class back at school, Amira’s class is asked to write a speech, and the one who writes the best one gets honored just like Amira. Heba (the Regina of the class) taunts the teacher, saying there’s no point in them even trying when it’s going to be Amira with the best speech as usual.
Heba and her friends aren’t just bullying Amira. They’ve got a few other targets too, whom they harass occasionally. Amira and another girl are tired of this treatment and always ask the vice principal for help, the principal simply tells the vice principal to write down their complaints and carry on. According to her, if the girls can’t handle some harsh words from classmates, then they can’t survive out in this world (somebody send her help). The vice principal is tired of dealing with the girls and asks the principal to take charge and handle things, but she’s busy with her divorce and prefers not to interfere. One of the girls is the daughter of one of the ladies working at the school. Her mother shows girls pictures of boys and helps them connect with them so they can have “boyfriends.” On the other hand, Hayat’s husband wants custody of their daughter and is making things worse for her. Amira is best friends with Rana, the principal’s daughter, and even wants to gift her a painting made by her father as a present for her birthday. Rana is the reason Amira is somewhat safe in school since Heba and the gang can’t go too far while bullying her.
In school, Amira realizes she’s lost her math book and goes to the storage room to get herself a new one. Out of the blue, she gets locked in there and accidentally falls into the darkness. When she comes to, she realizes that there’s a fire in the school. The rest of the girls are all being evacuated in the meantime, and nobody realizes Amira is missing. Rana, too, is separated from her and doesn’t really seem to know where she’s gone. Afif, a pregnant teacher, tries really hard to help all the girls. She manages to send some of the girls, including Rana, up to the roof so they can escape the massive fire while she looks for the key to the roof. However, she dies as she escapes the school, saving the girls. On the other hand, the gates of the school are locked, but the guard is nowhere around to unlock them for the girls to escape. Ultimately, it’s the authorities who bust open the gate, and there’s a man who is desperate for them not to because the school hasn’t received an official order to open up. Everyone is saved except for Amira, who ends up dying in the storage room.
The police investigate the situation but do not find any evidence of who might’ve been involved in the fire or if it was arson or an accident. On the other hand, Rana cannot handle the news of her friend’s death. Even the bullies have been shaken up by everything that happened at the school. The girl’s mother, who worked there, ended up being severely burned trying to help people. She tells Principal Hayat that Rana has answers for her and knows what happened to Amira.
How Does The Principal Turn The Girls Against Each Other?
The three bullies are the suspects immediately. The principal is desperate to blame one of these girls, so she can show the authorities that she is responsible and deserves to be the principal of the school. However, she completely turns the girls against each other and sows the seeds of bad blood among them in the process of interrogating them. It’s almost as if she’s hiding something. Despite these girls being bullies at the school, they’re also each suffering in their own way. It’s fair to have them punished for what they’ve done to the other girls, but blaming them for no reason is simply a desperate act. It also sets a terrible example because they’ll never have the chance to learn from their mistakes and grow as human beings.
Who Locked Amira In The Room?
Unfortunately, it’s later revealed that it was Rana, Amira’s best friend, who locked her in the storage room because she was desperate for the teacher to choose her speech. Her mother had repeated the words “make me proud” so many times that she couldn’t bear the thought of disappointing her. Amira had always been a model student; she used to tell the girls if they made mistakes or cheated the teachers in any way, so the principal assumed it would be easy to provide evidence that the other girls had locked her in. In reality, she knew that Rana was the one who did it because of what one of the girls’ mothers had told her in the hospital. It’s when Rana can’t sleep that Hayat gives her some pills to help her drift off. This is when Rana tells her grandmother the truth, but her grandmother thinks she’s hallucinating from the medication. Rana’s been staying at home since the incident, and in the meantime, the bullies get expelled from school, and Heda goes to prison for killing Amira.
Ultimately, though, Rana can’t tolerate the guilt. She tells her mother the truth and is shocked to realize her mother already knew. This is when Rana decides to admit her fault and go to the authorities herself, setting the right example. The painting from Amira’s father is a reminder of her mistake that caused her friend’s death. It’s never “just one mistake,” because even a single mistake can change a person completely and turn an innocent into a bully, or worse, a murderer. Principal Hayat is fired from the job, and the vice principal is made the new principal. Rana can finally sleep in peace in her prison cell.
Who Set The Fire?
At the end of From the Ashes, we get a flashback from the day of the fire. The two bullies were trying to smoke cigarettes behind the storage room, where there is a dangerous amount of dried grass around. The vice principal catches them, but they beg her to let it go just this once. When the girls are gone, the Vice Principal smokes the cigarette; however, when she hears the sound of Amira falling down in the storage room, she quickly stubs the cigarette out and runs away. It’s still lit, and she doesn’t even bother checking what’s happened in the storage room, leaving Amira to the dead. We can imagine that the Vice Principal didn’t realize it was she who caused the fire; however, the truth will probably come to the surface at some point if the cigarette butt remained as evidence in the spot. It somewhat doesn’t make sense that the fire was simply forgotten after Rana confessed. Even though the vice principal wanted to really help the girls, she did make a mistake, and she should’ve admitted it.