Writing with Fire paints a powerful picture of some of society's most neglected finding a voice and lifting themselves up with a little help from technology and a lot of sheer guts and effort. The documentary provides "fly on the wall" coverage of the women of Khabar Lahariya (KL) as they go about investigating and reporting on a number of stories. This is well interwoven with first-person narrative and reflection by the primary protagonists as well as snippets from their day-to-day lives. The only direct narrative from the film-makers are a few captions - mostly places, events, dates. The result is an under-stated and authentic account that, for the most part, shies away from theatrics or embellishment. Events like a severed head are covered with empathy and sensitivity, but without the need for gory, voyeuristic detail. The challenges and dangers these women face in their work and even at home are palpable, but never graphic.
The other fascinating aspect of this story is how a group of rural women learn and embrace technology - smart phones, social media, digital editing and distribution channels - in order to empower themselves and expand their impact. Digital Transformation gurus - take note!
The latter part of the documentary does focus on the rise to power of BJP - India's ruling political part. The women of KL candidly discuss concerns as they go about covering events and people associated with BJP. This part of the narrative may unfortunately raise political and religious ire and cause some backlash. It is worth remembering that the fight these women are fighting goes back centuries. Current politics is just the latest curve in a very long road. It is not the centerpiece of this narrative.
While I would definitely recommend this documentary, I do have a couple of minor criticisms. I found the narrative a little choppy and a little slow in some places. Also, the subtitles are sometimes not accurate. "I like it" becomes "I am so happy" (10th minute). Elsewhere, a wistful lament becomes a harsh criticism (28th minute). But these are minor defects that take little away from the whole.