“We wanted to bear witness to a moment in India’s own history,” reveals “Writing with Fire” co-director Sushmit Ghosh. For our recent webchat, he continues, “Women had never been represented in positions of power, or very rarely so, in our history in popular culture. It felt like the one of the right reasons to come into this story.” Watch the exclusive interview above.
“Writing with Fire” is the feature directorial debut for Ghosh and Rintu Thomas. It is a documentary which follows India’s only female run news organization, ‘Khabar Lahariya,’ over a five year period. ‘Khabar Lahariya’ is made up of Dalit women, which means they are from the lowest stratum in India’s historical caste system. The film explores the women transitioning to digital reporting as they cover issues from local roadworks to national elections. Growing viewership leads to change in the community, as the women fearlessly hold the powerful to account.
Ghosh explains, “It was a bit meta because they were they were recording their truth and we were recording our own truth. What we were really interested in was their inner worlds. How are they going to navigate the multitude of challenges that they face? The choices that they have to make on a daily basis, not only have an impact on them, but their families, the communities and how they are viewed as journalists in Indian society. The success of the newspaper was really a Trojan horse which we used to dive into the worlds of Meera and the other two main characters.”
At Sundance the film won the Audience Award and Special Jury Award: Impact for Change. It has also made the Oscar shortlist for Best Documentary Feature. Ghosh says, “This is what people want to see from the journalists, right? This is what we’re not seeing. Here’s a story that, in concrete terms, tells you how the work gets done. The fact that it comes from protagonists you would least expect to create change speaks to the power of all of us. We are all in our own positions of privilege, and all in our own bubbles. So if the women of ‘Khabar Lahariya’ can create change against the biggest of odds, what’s stopping us?”
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