India’s ‘Writing with Fire’ loses out Best Documentary Feature award to ‘Summer of Soul’ at Oscars 2022

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Kavita Bundelkhandi, left, and Meera Devi at Khabar Lahariya’s one-room office on the outskirts of Banda city, where they lead a newsroom of 20 reporters spread across the Bundelkhand region. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Niha Masih

Los Angeles : At the 2022 Oscars, Delhi-based filmmaker duo Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh-directed ‘Writing with Fire’ lost out the Best Documentary Feature honor to ‘Summer of Soul’ (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)’.

‘Writing with Fire’ is Thomas and Ghosh’s debut feature documentary 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.

A still from “Writing with Fire,” the first Indian-made film nominated in the documentary feature category at the Academy Awards. MUST CREDIT: Black Ticket Films via The Washington Post

The 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 and redefining power, investigating local police-force incompetence, listening in and standing by victims of caste and gender violence.

Journalists from Khabar Lahariya, an all-women journalist collective led by Dalits in Uttar Pradesh, interview a subject. MUST CREDIT: Black Ticket Films via The Washington Post
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It was the first Indian documentary made by an all-India independent production to bag an Oscar nomination in this category. ‘Ascension’, ‘Attica’, and ‘Flee’ were the other nominees.
‘Summer of Soul’ (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), which won the Best Documentary Feature Oscar this year is a documentary about the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival which celebrated African-American music and culture and promoted Black pride and unity.

Previously, in 2009, India’s AR Rahman had won the Academy Award for Best Original Score and Best Song (‘Jai Ho’) in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. The legendary Gulzar also bagged the Best Lyrics honor that same year.

The nominees for this year’s Oscars had been announced on February 8 this year.

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