“Writing with Fire” a film

“Writing with Fire” a film by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh

Watching a film like “Writing with Fire” is one of those reminders about how far women have yet to go in the battle for respect and equality in this world. And respect, of the deepest kind, is what I have for the women who founded and work for Khabar Lahariya (“Waves of News”), a broadcasting and media production company in the northern Indian province of Uttar Pradesh.

The film begins in 2012 and follows the reporters of this all-female news company through 2019. They are transitioning from print to digital media (you can find links at the end of this review). Their mission is to cover the stories ignored by other media: the rapes of Dalit women, exposing the lie behind the government’s claim that every house has a toilet, the deplorable living conditions in the areas occupied by low-caste people, and how the rise of Hindu Nationalism erodes women’s rights.

Watch lead reporter Meera Devi as she unblinkingly questions a weeping father about the rape of his daughter, or as she films the plea of a Dalit woman who has been repeatedly gang-raped, and despite her husband’s efforts, the local police ignore the case. Meera goes to the police demanding an explanation, not excuses, filming the interview.

Reporter Suneeta Prajapati is developing into a crack investigative reporter, following politics and crime. She introduces you to her village, devastated by illegal mining that the government turns a blind eye to. She looks into the case of a murdered woman—while the body lies nearby—and unflinching, insists on seeing the fatal wounds. This is even more remarkable when you learn that India has become one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists—female ones being in particular peril.

We also see an illiterate neophyte Dalit woman admitting her ignorance and fear of the smart phone she’s been given, but overcoming that to become a news videographer. As Khabar Lahariya’s online presence grows, they first reap praise. Later, as their hard-hitting stories become more widespread, hate and condemnation fills their comment sections.

Though this documentary is heartbreaking in seeing the hardships Indian women must endure, it is inspiring to watch this group of women assert their rights to education, a government that investigates crimes against them, and a clean and healthy home environment.




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