Filmmaker Ajitpal Singh’s Fire in the Mountains and director duo Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh’s Writing with Fire are the two Indian films to have been selected for the Sundance Film Festival 2021, the organisers announced on Wednesday. The festival, which will be held from January 28 to February 3, is presented by Sundance Organisation, a nonprofit that discovers and supports independent artists, and introduces audiences to their work.
Singh’s debut Hindi feature, Fire in the Mountains will have its world premiere in the ‘World Cinema Dramatic Competition’, which showcases 10 narrative feature films from emerging talent around the world offering fresh perspectives and inventive styles. Billed as a family drama, the film revolves around a mother who toils to save money to build a road in a remote Himalayan village to take her wheelchair-bound son for physiotherapy but her husband believes that a shamanic ritual (Jagar) is the remedy.
Whereas, Writing With Fire marks the feature debut of directors Thomas and Ghosh and the film will premiere in the ‘World Cinema Documentary Competition’ segment, which celebrates 10 non-fiction feature films from emerging talent around the world showcase some of the most courageous and extraordinary filmmaking today. The film follows this ambitious group of Dalit wonder women — led by their chief reporter, Meera — as the team switches from print to digital in order to stay relevant.
Armed with smartphones and the courage and conviction one must be born with, they investigate the incompetence of the local police force, listen to and stand by victims of caste and gender violence, and challenge long-standing, harmful practices that lead to injustice and intimidation. “Thanks to the directors’ intimate yet respectful lens, we witness these rural reporters’ awe-inspiring efforts to dismantle patriarchy and redefine traditional notions of power. ‘Writing With Fire’ is an electrifying reminder to never underestimate the strength of a woman who’s had enough,” reads the film’s synopsis.
Fire in the Mountains is a Jar Pictures production backed by Ajay Rai and Alan McAlex and co-produced by Amit Mehta and Mauli Singh. Ajitpal Singh said he is “thrilled” that his feature will premiere at the prestigious festival. “Sundance has been a dream since 2012 when my first script was selected for Sundance Mumbai Mantra Script lab and I experienced their love and warmth for independent artists.
“This dream would have remained a dream if my producer Ajay Rai had not shown faith in me,” the director said in a statement. The film stars Vinamrata Rai in the central role of the mother along with Chandan Bisht, Sonal Jha and first time young actors from Uttarakhand — Harshita Tewari and Mayank Singh Jaira.
Earlier titled Swizerland, Ajitpal Singh said the idea of Fire In The Mountains came from a personal tragedy, when his cousin died because her husband didn’t take her to the hospital “thinking she was possessed by a ghost”.
“The film is about the clash of two world views — traditional and modern, with a strong woman at the heart of it and I hope my film will make people ask some relevant questions about their blind faiths,” he added.
Rai, who has produced award-winning films like Killa, Gangs of Wasseypur and Liar’s Dice, which was India’s official entry at the 2015 Academy Awards, said the team is excited to start their film journey from Sundance.
“This is our second film after Liars’ Dice to be selected at Sundance, after a gap of seven years, and it feels truly special,” Rai said.
McAlex, who previously served as an executive producer on projects like Dangal and Amazon Prime Video series Made in Heaven, said the team is delighted to end “this difficult year” on an exciting note.
Mauli Singh, who makes her feature debut as a producer with the film, said she couldn’t have asked for a “better start than Sundance”. “Fire in the Mountains is our labour of love and I am excited to see how the world audience will connect with it,” she added.
The 2021 Sundance Film Festival will have virtual screenings — due to the coronavirus pandemic — as well as the drive-in and socially distanced screenings around the United States, the organisers said.
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