Filmmakers Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh were watching the announcement of Oscar nominees with great anticipation. And their moment arrived when their documentary Writing With Fire made it to the final-five list at the 94th Academy Awards in the Best Documentary Feature category. It is a moment of pride for us as ‘Writing With Fire’ is the first Indian documentary to make it to the final nomination in this category.
Jumping in excitement and hugging each other, their families also joined in the celebration. Thomas had shared the video of them watching the Oscar nomination and it has gone viral.
In the video, Sushmit can be heard screaming, “Unbelievable!” Thomas tweeted, “Oh My God!!!! Writing With Fire just got nominated for the @TheAcademy Award. Oh My God!!!!!!!! #OscarNoms #WritingWithFire.”
The other four nominees in the Best Documentary Feature category are Attica, Ascension, Flee and Summer of the Soul (Or When the Revolution Could not be Televised).
A film about Dalit women journalists running the newspaper Khabar Lahariya in Bundelkhand, Writing With Fire had its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, where it bagged two coveted awards including The Audience Award and a Special Jury Award: Impact for Change in the World Cinema Documentary category. Besides, it has won 28 international awards across the world. At Sundance, Shaunak Sen’s Indian documentary All That Breathes won the 2022 Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema Documentary Competition.
“Every time the film has played at a festival, something new has happened. Either the local journalist community has got in touch or schools reached out to us,” said Thomas in one of her interviews.
For Sushmit, it’s the story of Dalit women running a newspaper in India’s hinterland that compelled them to make the film. “Here’s a news outlet run completely by Dalit women. And they were working in a geography which is known for very high levels of caste and gender violence. To operate a newspaper in that kind of a social framework is terribly challenging. We knew we had a story to tell,” he said.
As of now, two documentary features set in India have won the Oscar for Best Documentary (Short Subject) — Smile Pinki, a 2008 film made by American director Megan Mylan, and Period. End of Sentence, a 2018 film by another American director Rayka Zehtabchi.
This year, Suriya’s much-appreciated Tamil film Jai Bhim and Mohanlal’s Malayalam film Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham were included in the list of 276 eligible films for the Academy Awards, but failed to make the final cut.
Meanwhile, the 94th Oscar nominations have thrown up a few firsts in quite a few categories. Denzel Washington has become the most-nominated Black actor, courtesy his performance in The Tragedy of Macbeth, directed by Academy Award-winner Joel Cohen. Jane Campion has made history by becoming the first woman to be nominated as Best Director for the second time. Campion was earlier nominated in 1993 for The Piano while this year, she has been nominated for The Power of the Dog.
Actor-producer Will Smith has bagged a double Academy Award nomination this year, as lead actor for King Richard, in which he plays Serena and Venus Williams’ father Richard, as well as a nomination for Best Picture with fellow producers Tim White and Trevor White.
Leading the pack of nominations is Netflix’s The Power of the Dog, which dominated Tuesday with 12 nominations, with sci-fi epic Dune coming in a close second with 10 nominations. Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story has gone home with seven nominations.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, actor-director Kenneth Branagh has become the first person to be nominated in seven different categories at the Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for his film Belfast. The winners will be announced on March 27 at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.
Don’t Look Up
Drive My Car
The Power of the Dog
West Side Story
Kenneth Branagh (Belfast)
Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car)
Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza)
Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog)
Steven Spielberg (West Side Story)
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog)
Andrew Garfield (Tik Tik Boom!)
Will Smith (King Richard)
Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth)
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye)
Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter)
Penelope Cruz (Parallel Mothers)
Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos)
Kristen Stewart (Spencer)
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter)
Ariana DeBose (West Side Story)
Judi Dench (Belfast)
Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog)
Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard)
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Ciaran Hinds (Belfast)
Troy Kotsur (CODA)
Jesse Plemons (The Power of the Dog)
J.K. Simmons (Being the Ricardos)
Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog)
INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Drive My Car
The Hand of God
Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom
The Worst Person in the World
Summer of Soul
Riding with Fire