'Writing With Fire': Indian documentary on Dalit women journalists gets Oscar nomination

'Writing With Fire': Indian documentary on Dalit women journalists gets Oscar nomination
Credit: Image source: ANI/Instagram

As the Oscar 2022 nominations were announced, Indian Documentary film 'Writing with Fire' was nominated for the Best Documentary Feature award, India's first entry in this category.

This film is Delhi-based filmmaker duo Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh's debut documentary about a newspaper 'Khabar Lahariya' (meaning News Waves).

Tracee Ellis Ross and Leslie Jordan announced the nominations via the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Twitter page.

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'Writing with Fire' has previously won 28 international awards, including Sundance Film Festival. It won two awards, Special Jury (Impact for Change) and Audience awards at the World Cinema Documentary competition.

The 93-minute feature documentary is about a newspaper, 'Khabar Lahariya', started as a social experiment by an NGO. It's India's only rural newspaper run by Dalit women since 2002, started by Delhi-based NGO Nirantar from Chitrakoot in the Bundelkhand region.

It is published across Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in rural dialects of Hindi, including Bundeli and Awadhi. 'Khabar Lahariya' is India's only women-run ethical and independent rural news brand. Today, it reaches 5 million people every month through multiple digital platforms.

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The feature documentary captures 'Khabar Lahariya's switch from print to digital in recent years. It follows how the newspaper's Chief reporter Meera and her journalists break traditions, redefining what it means to be powerful by reporting India's biggest issues and within the confines of their own homes, questioning notions of patriarchy, investigating local police-force incompetence, listening in and standing by victims of caste and gender violence.

Meera Devi said about the Oscar nomination, "I am so happy. But I can't express it well,"

Devi features prominently in the documentary, wading through fields, hitching a bike ride along potholed roads, and recording smartphone videos of villagers as they narrate their issues.

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"We are proud that 20 years of our rural reporting and hard work is being appreciated and loved by a global audience, encouraging us to further our women-led grassroots media revolution," Kavita Devi, one of the co-founders of the organisation, said in an email.

Lahariya operates out of a farmhouse and trains local women to use phones and conduct interviews. Khabar

The trailer of the film, directed by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, shows them as they travel on foot and in crowded buses and learn how to use a mobile phone for the first time.

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