The 94th Academic Award ceremony will be held at its long-time home, the Los Angeles Dolby Theatre, in March 2022. This is the first time an Indian documentary has been nominated out of 15 films from a pool of 138 for an Academy Award, so it has made history. This documentary also won the Special Jury (Impact for Change) and Audience awards at the Sundance Film Festival in January last year (2021). It has bagged 28 international awards since then.
Thomas-Ghosh’s film production agency, Black Ticket Films, “is invested in the power of non-fiction storytelling. As filmmakers, Rintu and I have always been interested in amplifying stories of resilience and hope,” Ghosh had said earlier.
Director Rintu Thomas could not contain her excitement, and it showed in her reaction video that went viral on Twitter. “We are beyond delighted. This is a massive moment for us and Indian cinema. This film is about fearless Dalit women journalists who are redefining what being powerful means, quintessentially the story of the modern Indian woman,” co-director Sushmit Ghosh said in a statement.
The film will be streamed on multiple broadcasting services, all over the world.
Synopsis of the Documentary
Sushmit Ghosh and Rinku Thomas are the producers, co-directors, editors, and photographers of “Writing with fire”. Mr. Ghosh started working on this six years ago with Delhi-based filmmaker Rinku Thomas. Thapliyal has manned its cinematography. It is a journalism movie, the story of “Khabar Lahariya”, a vibrant community newspaper in Bundelkhand available in various dialects—Bundeli, Avadhi, and Bajjika. The newspaper translates into the waves of news, through a newsroom that is run entirely by women, and most of them are from the Dalit community. The narrative traces the journey of women who are shown transitioning from 14 years of print to digital. The women were operating from a region that is known for its notorious levels of violence against the community.
The film follows essentially three reporters in the newsroom: Meera, the protagonist of the film, and two other journalists whom she is essentially mentoring. While covering the big picture as a reporter, Meera had to look after her house and family members. This underlines that the story is not only about a journalist but also about a mother, a daughter, and a wife who bears guilt while making day-to-day choices and maintaining the required energy shock altogether. This documentary tells a lot of stories in an interconnected way.
The reporters in the film cover dark village spaces that are not covered by the mainstream media, where people don’t have access to clean drinking water, toilets, healthcare facilities, electricity, and schools. Showing the roles of women who were doing this work is essentially ensuring equity and justice for people across the spectrum of the country.
The Baseline of the Documentary: Khabar Lahariya
Khabar Lahariya started in Chitrakoot, in 2002. It started as a literary project, or more precisely, a woman and literacy project. Kavita Devi is the co-founder of this newspaper. The first issue of the newspaper was published from the town of Karwi in UP. Then onwards, for the next 14 years, the all-women journalist team would write, edit, produce, distribute, and market the newspaper in neighboring villages and towns, mostly on foot. The newspaper completed its first 20 years and received this memorial reward of being shortlisted for the Academy Awards.