It is a powerful moment to witness a rural Dalit woman confidently confronting a crowd of men. This is why Writing With Fire is important. Directed by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh as their feature debut, it is a fresh and interesting take on journalism practised at the grassroots level. The documentary navigates the lives of a group of women working for Khabar Lahariya (an independent newspaper run completely by women) as they fight against crimes, report on illegal mining and cover political rallies, all while fighting the deeply entrenched caste system in our society.
In a runtime of 94 minutes, Writing With Fire follows the journeys of two fearless women, Meera and Suneeta and explores how Khabar Lahariya expanded into a channel with more than 80,000 readers and 150 million views on its Youtube channel. The heartening world of the documentary shows that women are capable enough to not just run an organization, but simultaneously fight societal taboos and juggle household responsibilities. Writing With Fire helps us trace the extraordinary in the normal lives of these women.
The documentary follows the transition of the paper from print to digital as the reporters overcome technological barriers along with socio-economic and political challenges in rural Uttar Pradesh. Additionally, the women also face infrastructural challenges in order to go to work every day. These sequences have been portrayed so intricately, each hardship is shown for what it is. For instance, in a particular scene, a woman is worried that she might not be able to shoot the video due to low battery as there was no electricity.
One of the film’s many gems is its portrayal of female friendships. We see women uplifting and helping each other grow. Since many of the journalists are not adept at shooting on smartphones, they have feedback sessions where reporters train and help each other get better at work. Being an only-female group, working against an overwhelming imbalance of power, the women are each other’s support.
The only flaw that lies with this film is that it gives only a limited insight into their lives. It does not show us what struggles they had to face when the newspaper was started and how it encouraged these women to join the cause. In its entirety, however, the documentary is a rare visual treat that celebrates unapologetic, fearless and independent women fighting for multiple causes.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.