March 20, 2023

Nevertheless, women persist

Two very different documentary films screening at AFS Cinema show women fighting for equality and equity


Two very different documentary films screening at AFS Cinema share a common story: Nevertheless, women persist in their fight for equality and equity.

“Writing with Fire” and “The Conductor” will be screened during Austin Film Society’s Doc Days mini-festival Oct. 14-17.

“Writing with Fire” premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival where it won both the Audience Award and a Special Jury Award for Impact for Change.

Filmmakers Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh follow a group of Dalit women — a group considered so low in the Indian caste system it’s considered “untouchable”  — who started a newspaper, Khabar Lahariya, in the northern province Uttar Pradesh. Led by lead reporter Meera and armed only with their smartphones, these intrepid self-taught women journalists expose the country’s extremist Hindu leadership, dangerous working conditions in the region’s illegal mines and the rape culture that is rampant.

The film joins these intrepid women as they embark on a new phase: Khabar Lahariya’s pivot to digital after 14 years as a print newspaper. For the women reporters of Khaba Lahariya (“News Wave”), journalism is inextricably linked to democracy, and they are clear-eyed about what their successes mean for other women. “Writing with Fire” is a powerful and uplifting documentary.

“The Conductor,” which follows the life and career of orchestra leader Marin Alsop. premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in June.

With unprecedented access, director Bernadette Wegenstein intimately details Alsop’s life and work to come the first woman to lead major classical orchestras in the U.S., South America, Austria and Britain. Born into a musical family in New York, Alsop set her sights on becoming a conductor when at age nine after her father to took her to one of Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts. Yet facing classical music’s hidebound traditionalism, Alsop continually faced roadblocks, repeatedly denied entry into the field.

With a score of music conducted by Alsop herself, “The Conductor” not only charts Alsop’s career but reveals her commitment to opening the door behind her for other underrepresented voices in classical music.

“The old boys’ network — that’s been there for centuries” Alsop says in the film. “We have to create the old girls’ network, you know, so that we can really be there for each other, and support each other.”

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