Writing With Fire: Indian documentary shortlisted for an Oscar

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Writing With Fire, a documentary directed by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, which already won in the World Cinema Documentary category at the Sundance Festival, has now been shortlisted for an Oscar. It is also the first-ever full-length Indian documentary to be shortlisted for an Academy Award.

The film, is about the cluttered news landscape dominated by dominant caste men, and how chief reporter Meera Devi and her journalists challenge norms to set the foundation for India’s only newspaper run by Dalit women; Khabar Lahariya.

Khabar Lahariya is based in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populated state and one with prevalent caste discrimination and high rates of crimes against women.

Meera Devi in the field. (Source: writingwithfire.in)
Meera Devi in the field. (Source: writingwithfire.in)

In the documentary trailer, a group of women reporters in a rural Indian newsroom discuss why they need to adapt and move away from print journalism towards digital.

“I’ve never used a smartphone,” one of them reveals.

Besides their journey towards embracing new technology, the documentary puts the spotlight on incredible women who remain dedicated to their profession.

The women journalists are met with several discouraging comments when they step out to report. They are asked about their caste, asked to stay home, and asked to know their ‘place’.

In a region where a Dalit woman journalist was an unimaginable concept, Writing With Fire reiterates the importance of women in the field, especially covering stories about discrimination and assault.

“This is the first time an Indian feature documentary has reached this far and it really feels like a powerful moment for all of us,” Sushmit Ghosh told Vogue. “This is what creative resistance is, where our stories are going out into the world, despite the challenges we face as artists.”

“Our story is about Dalit women, who have historically been portrayed as victims in pop culture, so to reimagine them as an archetype of the modern Indian woman was one of our key goals,” he added.

It is becoming increasingly common that storytellers from the Indian subcontinent find their voice internationally with their stories recognised as ‘authentic, powerful narratives that truly represent the experiences of the global south’, Sushmit told the lifestyle magazine.

Watch the trailer for Oscar-shortlisted Writing With Fire here.

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