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‘Writing With Fire’, the Indian Documentary Film, Bags 2 Awards at Sundance Film Festival

Writing With Fire, the Indian documentary film, won the Audience Award and the Special Jury Award in the World Cinema Documentary category at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.


The film festival was held virtually this year from January 28 to February 3.

Writing With Fire and Ajitpal Singh’s Fire in the Mountains (which competed in the Dramatic Film category) were the two Indian films that made it to the festival this year.

Writing With Fire, directed by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, revolves around a team of Dalit women reporters who launch India’s sole Dalit women-run newspaper in a news landscape dominated by men. Chief reporter Meera and her team break tradition to redefine what it means to be powerful, on the news frontlines and in their own homes.

Other films that took home several awards include CODA, Summer of Soul, Hive and Flee.

Sian Heder’s CODA won four awards- the Grand Jury Award, the Audience Award, the Special Jury Award, and the Directing Award, all in the U.S. Dramatic Film category. An acronym for Children of Deaf Adults, the American film was also Sundance’s record-breaking acquisition that saw Apple+ TV buy its worldwide rights for $25 million. The story revolves around a high-school senior, who is the only hearing member in her deaf family and her choice when she’s torn between her family’s business that stands threatened and her passion for music.

Blerta Basholli’s Hive, the collaborative project of Kosovo, Switzerland, Macedonia, and Albania won the Grand Jury Prize, the Audience Award and the Directing Award in the World Cinema Dramatic category.

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s Summer of Soul won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, both in the U.S. Dramatic category.


Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize in Documentary category.

Marion Hill’s for Ma Belle, My Beauty was awarded the NEXT title, presented by Adobe.

The Waldo Screenwriting Award was presented to Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch for their American feature film On the Count of Three. Sundance introduced the Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award in the U.S. Documentary category this year with Kristina Motwani and Rebecca Adorno winning the prize for their documentary film Homeroom. The award is dedicated to the late editor.

Hogir Hirori won the Directing Award in the World Cinema Documenatry category for the Swedish film Sabaya.

This year’s feature film jury comprised Julie Dash, Cynthia Erivo, Hanya Yanagihara, Ashley Clark, Joshua Oppenheimer, Lana Wilson, Zeynep Atakan, Isaac Julien, Daniela Vega, Kim Longinotto, Mohamed Saïd Ouma, and Jean Tsien. Kate and Laura Mulleavyserved as co-jurors for NEXT. Shorts jurors were Raúl Castillo, Tacita Dean and Inge de Leeuw.


Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the festival, curated by the Sundance Institute, could not be held at the traditional venue of Park City in Utah. Instead, it was brought online, through satellite screenings partnering with drive-in theatres across the US.

“This was not a ‘virtual’ festival, it was a real festival and the power of these artists and their work was what made it so. It has been a privilege to help this work meet new audiences and enter the culture with such fanfare, especially now, when breaking through the noise is harder than ever,” Sundance Film Festival Director Tabitha Jackson said in a statement.

A total of 73 films entered for the six-day festival.

Sundance Institute CEO Keri Putnam said, “This has been a singular festival for a singular moment. Watching people come together to connect and discuss exciting new work has been incredibly rewarding – and a resounding confirmation that great independent storytelling inspires rich conversation.”