A captivating portrait of the bravery of female journalists, Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas’ Writing with Fire shows how determined these women must be to bring truth to light in a world that doesn’t want their opinions.
Khabar Lahariya is the only news agency in India run by Dalit women. The Dalit are the most oppressed group in the caste system of India. Armed with perspective, empathy, hard-work, and smartphones, the group reports on some of the most difficult regions on the most timely topics.
Chief reporter Meera Devi and her understudy Suneeta Prajapati tackle the corruption in the mining systems, the epidemic of the rape of Dalit women, crumbling infrastructure, and the Indian national elections and how they are tied into religion. Set primarily in the Uttar Pradesh region, the women are chastized, patronized, and threatened constantly.
As the women tackle the journalistic issues, they face their own issues at home while also dealing with an evolving journalistic landscape. The shift to YouTube as well as the urgency to break news are ever-present reminders.
The film shines a light on not only the financial and logistical barriers these women face, but the stigmas that go along with it. Meera is married, but spends a majority of her time working. Any failings of her children’s schoolwork is a reflection on her. On the other side, Sunetta’s lack of desire for a husband stigmatizes her from her family, who don’t understand her desire for occupational independence.
Outside of the social pressures, actual threats exist. When these women investigate stories that otherwise would be in the dark, pressure is brought to bear. Many of their interview attempts are met with outward hostility and threats. A small portion of the film is focused on the murder of an unrelated female journalist and the fear these women must endure.
More than anything, Writing with Fire documents the bravery, ingenuity, and journalistic integrity these women take on in order to speak truth to power. Despite whatever political realities exist in India, the film is a beacon of hope that things can and will change for the better.
Writing with Fire is available on-demand