Writing With Fire: Indian documentary film “Writing With Fire” has been shortlisted in the Best Documentary Feature category of the 94th Academy Awards. While the critically praised Tamil movie ‘Koozhangal’ (Pabbles), which was India’s official entry for the International Feature Film category at the Academy Award 2022, has been ousted out of the race, the nomination of the Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh directed ‘Writing With Fire’ has revived the happiness of the Indian film lovers.
The documentary had earlier won 28 international awards, including double wins at Sundance, Audience Award at The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, Best Feature doc at San Francisco, and double wins at BlackStar. The background score of the film is composed by internationally acclaimed Kolkata-based music composer Tajdar Junaid along with Ishaan Chabbra.
The documentary screens the story of the rise of ‘Khabar Lahariya’, a newspaper run only by Dalit women. Launched as a fortnightly in 2002 in Hindi and Bundeli language, the newspaper covers the grassroots issues of the villages of UP and Bihar like local scandals, instances of violence against the women and lower classes, corruption among the higher officials etc. The women who report the stories also edit, produce, distribute and market the newspaper.
The dedication and perseverance of a few women all from marginalised rural communities brought the newspaper recognition in the early years. Several awards and recognitions along with financial support from various trusts helped the women expand their news outlet to the digital media. Today ‘Khabar Lahariya’ is the only and one-of-its-kind news organisation in India run entirely by rural women from backward communities (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Dalits and Muslims).
The documentary “Writing With Fire” mainly showcases the struggle of the women against the caste and gender stereotypes of the society and how they step into digital journalism with limited resources and loads of difficulties. Armed with smartphones, Chief Reporter Meera and her journalists break traditions, be it on the frontlines of India’s biggest issues or within the conﬁnes of their homes, redeﬁning what it means to be powerful.
The film depicts the challenges they face and the successes they achieve as they bring a new perspective to the news. In a cluttered news landscape dominated by men, ‘Khabar Lahariya’ not only emerges as India’s only women-run news network, but also sets a paradigm of rural journalism.