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'Writing With Fire' review: Fighting for truth, justice and clicks


Documentary examines India's only women-run newspaper, Khabar Lahariya, as its power and influence grows.

The women journalists of India's Khabar Lahariya aren't just truth seekers. They're freedom fighters. 

Their story is told in "Writing With Fire," a rousing documentary about the power of the written word and the importance of speaking truth to power.  

Formed in 2002, Khabar Lahariya — its name translates to "Waves of News" — is India's only newspaper run entirely by women. 

Those women are Dalits, who are seen as so low they don't even rank on India's caste system scale.

The Khabar Lahariya reporters face problems that all journalists face — declining print readership, a shift to online publishing — and some unique to their region in Uttar Pradesh. Many of them are fighting for their lives, quite literally, as journalists who speak out against the powerful and ruling forces are prone to mysterious disappearances. 

In the face of these obstacles, Khabar Lahariya thrives. Documentarians Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas show reporters on the job, interviewing politicians, investigating shady mining operations and tracking government road projects. Inside meetings at the paper's offices, reporters share their struggles with newly issued smartphones new hires wrestle with the basic tenets of journalism, and as they learn from their more seasoned co-workers a sisterhood develops among them. 

Meanwhile, their work makes a direct impact in the community and their YouTube numbers continue to grow. "Writing With Fire" is an underdog story with a real fighting spirit and an impossible-to-root-against team at its center. The hardships they face away from the job make their work that much more poignant, but the principles they're fighting for are universal. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama  

'Writing With Fire'

GRADE: B+

Not rated: Adult situations

Running time: 94 minutes

At the Detroit Film Theatre