A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Encourages courage, compassion, empathy, and perseverance of journalists and women and the Dalit caste. Importance of journalism and of exposing injustice, sexism, classism, extreme religious nationalism, corporate and political corruption, and institutional prejudice are major themes.
Positive Role Models
Meera, Suneeta, and Shyamkali and their colleagues are all brave, tenacious, hardworking. They persevere despite considerable obstacles in their way.
Documentary made by Indian filmmakers focuses on a collective of Indian women journalists who run a newspaper. They're all from the Dalit caste, India's so-called "untouchable" group that's rarely covered in popular media. The women aren't depicted as victims or as in need of outside saviors; they help others and themselves.
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Violence & Scariness
Lots of difficult conversations about various forms of violence: domestic, sexual, premeditated murder, stoning, gang rape, and more. Details about these crimes, some against the women featured in the film, are included.
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Insults (translated into English subtitles for U.S. release) include "liar," "monsters," "stupid," "uneducated."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Potential to see incidental images of people smoking cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Writing with Fire is a powerful documentary about the journalists working for India's only news organization run by women in the Dalit caste (once called the "untouchables"). Directors Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh follow the collective, focusing on three reporters and the various stories the group publishes as they transition to being a digital publication. The movie includes discussions of sexual and general violence, including rape, stoning, criminal negligence, domestic abuse, and what would be considered hate crimes in the United States. The ongoing risk to the journalists' lives is made clear with the story of a murdered journalist. Those conversations are the bulk of the difficult content, and they're accompanied by clear messages about the importance of journalism and of exposing injustice, sexism, classism, extreme religious nationalism, corporate and political corruption, and institutional prejudice. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is a powerful, thought-provoking, and feel-good documentary that humbles, inspires, and reminds audiences of the importance of journalism. The brave, intelligent, hardworking Dalit women of Uttar Pradesh (reportedly one of India's most corrupt states) who work for Khabar Lahariya expose the ancient, deeply held prejudice that still exists in India -- to the point that crimes against the Dalit aren't taken seriously when reported to local authorities. Thomas and Ghosh introduce audiences not only to the paper's various editors and reporters but also to the types of stories they investigate, like the lack of indoor plumbing in certain villages, the repeated gang rape of an older Dalit woman by men who go unpunished, and mine safety violations that have led to death or injury.
There are also moments of levity, like the excitement and awkwardness of learning new tech (some of the women initially struggle to master tablets and smartphones), or when Suneeta self-deprecatingly explains that she's still single because her family can't afford a dowry for the sort of man who'd be willing to let her work. In addition to plucky Suneeta, the movie follows veteran chief reporter Meera, who was married at 14 and is a mother of three who has managed to earn multiple degrees and run the newsroom, and Shyamkali, who's young and is a fast learner. It's not easy to hear about the stories the women investigate; they can be devastating. But as a directorial debut, this is a triumph, and the directors clearly bring to light the upsetting but important topics that Khabar Lahariya explores.
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