The story of a fearless journalist devoted to exposing injustice is well-tread cinematic ground, yet it feels as fresh and riveting as ever in Writing with Fire, the debut feature from co-directors Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas.
The award-winning documentary tells the story of the women behind India’s only all-female news network, Khabar Lahariya, or ‘Waves of News’. The film follows unflinching chief reporter Meera Devi and her team as, having kept the newspaper going for 14 years, they begin a transition from print to digital in a determined effort to move with the times.
For many of the women, all of whom belong to India’s lowest caste — Dalit or ‘untouchable’ — this is the first time they’ve owned a cellphone. Based in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, the women of Khabar Lahariya are rigorous reporters, taking on stories ranging from police incompetence, protests and corruption to sexual assault and murder. Mocked and discouraged by everyone from their neighbours to their husbands, they are relentless in their conviction, and it’s truly electrifying to watch this group of rural women prove all the men wrong. Writing with Fire is an intimate and invigorating exploration of power, patriarchy and democracy in contemporary India. Traversing the personal, political and professional, the film premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Documentary Competition, where it won both the Audience Award and a Special Jury Award for Impact for Change. — Amanda Jane Robinson