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Oscar nominations 2022: Indian documentary Writing with Fire nominated in Best Documentary Feature category

Oscars nominations 2022: ‘Writing with Fire’ is the first all-India independent production to make it to the final nomination in this category. In December, it had made it to the Oscars shortlist — among 15 films from a pool of 138.

Written by Tanushree Ghosh | New Delhi |
Updated: February 9, 2022 6:39:31 am
A still from Writing with Fire.

Delhi-based filmmakers Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh’s documentary, ‘Writing with Fire’, has won an Oscar nomination. It has made it to the final-five list to compete for the 94th Academy Award in the Best Documentary Feature category.

‘Writing with Fire’ is perhaps the first all-India independent production to make it to the final nomination in this category. In December, it had made it to the Oscars shortlist — among 15 films from a pool of 138.

After the venue was shifted last year in view of Covid-19, the Academy Award ceremony will return to its long-time home at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre on March 27.

Ghosh told The Indian Express, “We are beyond delighted. This is a massive moment for us and for Indian cinema. This is the first time an Indian documentary has been nominated for an Academy Award, so it has made history. This film is about fearless Dalit women journalists who are redefining what being powerful means, quintessentially the story of the modern Indian woman.”

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The other four finalists in the category are Chinese-American Jessica Kingdon’s film ‘Ascension’ on the Chinese Dream; Traci A Curry and Stanley Nelson’s ‘Attica’ about the 1971 uprising at Attica prison in New York State; Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Danish animated Afghan refugee story ‘Flee’; and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s ‘Summer of the Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised)’ on the 1969 Harlem cultural festival.

A still from Writing with Fire.

The documentary film, whose journey began six years ago, and which spotlights the Dalit women-run newspaper in Bundelkhand, ‘Khabar Lahariya’, mapping its print-to-digital transition, has been making headlines since it won the Special Jury (Impact for Change) and Audience awards at the Sundance Film Festival in January last year. It has bagged 28 international awards since.

Sundance is also where another Indian documentary feature, Shaunak Sen’s ‘All That Breathes’, picked up the 2022 Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema Documentary Competition category last month.

The accolades have reiterated to the filmmakers “that when we tell our stories, they have the power to ignite new imaginations and possibilities,” Thomas had said earlier. She and Ghosh have written, directed, produced, edited the film; and Ghosh and Karan Thapliyal have manned its cinematography.

A still from Writing with Fire.

Thomas-Ghosh’s film production agency, Black Ticket Films, “is invested in the power of non-fiction storytelling. As filmmakers, Rintu and I have always been interested in amplifying stories of resilience and hope,” Ghosh had said earlier.

In the past, Fali Bilimoria’s ‘The House that Ananda Built’ in 1969 and K K Kapil and Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s ‘An Encounter with Faces’ in 1979 were nominated for Best Documentary (Short Subject), and British filmmaker of Indian origin Asif Kapadia’s ‘Amy’ won the Best Documentary Feature in 2016.

This year is, however, not the first time a story about Indian women has travelled to the Academy Award stage. In 2019, Iranian-American filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi won the Best Documentary (Short Subject) for her film ‘Period. End of Sentence’ (2018), co-produced by Guneet Monga and starring Coimbatore’s “padman” Arunachalam Muruganantham, and American documentary filmmaker Megan Mylan’s Hindi-Bhojpuri documentary ‘Smile Pinki’ (2008), won the Best Documentary (Short Subject) in 2009, about a free cleft-lip surgery changing the life of a poverty-stricken five-year-old Pinki Sonkar near Varanasi.

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