Conceptualized by husband-wife duo Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, Writing With Fire tells the story of Khabar Lahariya, a newspaper run by Dalit women journalists.
Helmed by filmmakers Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, Writing with Fire is the sole Indian nomination at the 94th Academy Awards. It has been nominated for the Best Documentary Feature category.
With accolades and rave reviews pouring in from around the world, the filmmakers were hopeful yet anxious regarding their Oscar bid for the documentary. In a touching video, Thomas shared a spontaneous reaction that was captured the moment when her family and friends realized the film had indeed made it to the Academy Awards:
Writing with Fire takes on some of the most marginalized stories in contemporary India, focusing on the challenges and triumphs of Khabar Lahariya, a rural news publication run by Dalit women. Launched in 2022 by NGO Nirantar, the publication first established its roots in print, working out of Chitrakoot in Bundelkhand—a hotbed of caste-based politics and social biases.
Taking a close look at the transformation of print to digital media, as well as patriarchal prejudice, police incompetence, and the harrowing stories of caste and gender discrimination in the country, Writing with Fire’s subject matter absolutely deserves to be on the world stage.
The film was conceptualized by husband-wife duo Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, who have spent the last 10 years making short films together. Their work has been featured at the United Nations Climate Change Conference and The Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, and has been supported by various influential film organizations such as the Sundance Institute and Tribeca Institute.
The two were joined by Karan Thapliyal—a prolific cinematographer with bylines in UNESCO, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, History Channel, and many more. The three also share a hardcore love for the mountains, often shuttling between Delhi and the Himalayas for work and leisure.
Across the board—whether in private conversations with the filmmakers or on major publications—critics have praised the film for its ‘revelatory’ and ‘inspiring’ take on Indian grassroots journalism.
American feminist icon Gloria Steinem took a moment to appreciate the film, speaking to its creators online. “India is my second home,” she shared. “I lived there for two years after college. We (the US and India) are the two biggest, most diverse democracies in the world. We need each other, and need to learn from each other.”
She described the film as “a revelation in all kinds of ways. It makes clear that literacy has been a barrier to journalism for all the time I have been alive.”
Meanwhile, Variety called the film a “rousing, inspirational tribute to the pride of grassroots Indian journalism,” while The Washington Post named it “the most inspiring journalism movie—maybe ever.”
While snagging an Oscar nomination—especially for an independent film—is truly incredible, Writing with Fire has blazed a trail across the worldwide film festival circuit. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2021, winning both the Audience Award and a Special Jury award, followed by over 20 other international honours.
Writing With Fire will compete with Ascension by Jessica Kingdon, Kira Simon-Kennedy and Nathan Truesdell; Attica by Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry; Flee by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Charlotte De La Gournerie; and Summer of Soul (… Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein.
The 94th Academy Awards will be presented on March 27th, 2022.
(Featured Image Credits: Documentary.org, Black Ticket Films)