Top Ten Movies of 2021 — Number Seven

Directors Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas distinguish themselves as masterful storytellers with the documentary Writing with Fire. Like other crafters of nonfiction cinema, they had the good fortune to come upon a story worth telling. According to the filmmakers, it was a simple picture of a young Indian woman peddling copies of a newspaper called Khabar Lahariya that led them to discover the publication staffed by women who are Dalit, among the lowest figures in the nation’s caste culture. The directors were able to get ample footage of these dedicated journalists covered elections and local scandals in the face of sexism and other prejudice. The material is inspiring on the surface of it. What elevates Writing with Fire is the aplomb Ghosh and Thomas bring to shaping the film, developing story arcs without manipulation and highlighting individuals in a way that makes them more vividly drawn that the most riveting invented characters. In the most fitting honoring of their subjects, the filmmakers accomplish it all with a determined commitment to plain honesty. Reporting rigor carries the film, in more ways than one.

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