New movies to stream from home this week.
The Oscar-nominated documentary “Writing with Fire” follows the courageous group of journalists who established Khabar Lahariya, India’s first entirely female-run newspaper, and then challenges some of the country’s most fundamental cultural norms, including rape culture, environmental and economic exploitation and the system caste itself. Filmmakers Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas follow chief reporter Meera Devi as she brings the paper into the digital age, introducing her staff to video reporting on iPhones (landscape mode only, please!) and struggling against sexism, inertia and the rise of Narendra Modi’s conservative Bharatiya Janata Party. (Khabar Lahariya staff have since disputed the “Writing With Fire” portrayal of their coverage of Modi’s 2017 re-election campaign, insisting they represent a wide range of ideologies.) Devi and her protege Suneeta Prajapati pursue sensitive stories about sexual violence and illegal mining, while enduring condescension and outright hostility from their male sources and colleagues. Ghosh and Thomas do a stellar job of immersing viewers in the middle of women, one moment conveying camaraderie and the sheer joy of getting a big scoop, the next capturing a tense moment when Devi confronts a recalcitrant cop. Similar to 2020’s “A Thousand Cuts,” which profiled Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, “Writing With Fire” presents an inspiring portrait that illuminates a myriad of larger questions — in this case, whether India can continue to be called the largest democracy in the world. Meanwhile, through persistence and focus, Khabar Lahariya has become an online sensation. As one of his intrepid subjects put it, “We haven’t let down the fourth pillar. Not rated. Available on demand. Contains mature thematic elements. In Hindi with subtitles. 92 minutes. —AH