Asian Lite International’s columnist Riccha Grrover highlights that the documentary is an impactful character study of a reporter’s unshakable quest to report the truth.
Released across UK and Irish cinemas in July 2023, the film is a turbulent newsroom drama intimately chronicling the working days of broadcast journalist Ravish Kumar as he navigates a spiralling world of truth and disinformation. As factual reporting is in freefall, globally WHILE WE WATCHED is a dignified lens into the abyss.
Produced by the U.K’s Lono Studio and BritDoc Films, the documentary debuted at the Toronto Film Festival 2022, where it won the Amplify Voices award. It then picked up the Cinephile award at the Busan International Film Festival, won the International Competition award at Helsinki’s DocPoint festival, and most recently picked up the prestigious Sabeen Mahmud award for Courage in Cinema. Shukla previously directed the controversial Indian documentary ‘AN INSIGNIFICANT MAN’. The film had a UK premiere at Sheffield Doc Fest on Friday 16th June.
The documentary synopsis is that The Prime Time Indian TV journalist, Ravish Kumar, is in trouble. Famous for his unflinching takedowns of the ruling establishment during his long-running primetime news hour, his nerves have begun to fray from carrying the torch of ‘good journalism’ for too long. In the public eye, Ravish has become a regular fixture, beaming from TV sets and widely shared phone videos. His primetime news bulletin has long been characterised by solid research, verified evidence, vignette-style notes from the field, and a sharp commentary with a touch of rustic sass. In the Indian media landscape, Kumar’s show is a far cry from the new industry standard of high-decibel, polarising, blustering TV news debates.
As press freedom further disintegrates and self-censorship becomes the new normal, Kumar struggles to stay afloat in the rising tide of his own network’s financial hardships, sinking TRP ratings, and the strain of continuous downsizing. The dangerously deteriorating standard of public discourse finds Ravish at the receiving end of harassment, intimidation, morphed images, threats to his life and even violence against his family.
With a growing target on his back, and the looming threat of his network’s imminent closure, Ravish transforms from a spunky troublemaker into a deeply troubled man, worried for himself, his family, and the soul of his nation.
Kumar, a Ramon Magsaysay Award winner, was a senior journalist at Indian news platform NDTV, who resigned after billionaire Gautam Adani took over the company. He has since set up his own YouTube Channel where he broadcasts and has already built a following of 6.22M subscribers.
Director Vinay Shukla says, “While We Watched is my love letter to journalism. It’s an urgent newsroom horror film – there is a story of hope hidden deep inside layers of personal loneliness”
Shukla is also credited as a producer on WHILE WE WATCHED alongside Khushboo Ranka and Luke W.Moody. Executive producers include Maxyne Franklin, Jess Search, Beadie Finzi & Vijay Vaidyanathan.
Curator Thom Powers states that While We Watched is essential viewing for anyone interested in how television journalism is under threat. Although the film is rooted in India, its depiction of misinformation eroding fact-based news could apply to any number of countries.
At the centre of the film is veteran reporter Ravish Kumar of India’s NDTV who strives to uphold standards of independence and accountability. “Our job is to ask the most difficult questions to those in power,” he says. But every day, he faces a new set of challenges: budget cuts, staff departures, mysterious obstructions and even death threats. His station struggles to compete against the rising popularity of channels that replace news with zealots shouting down their opponents.
Filmmaker Vinay Shukla tells this story at the fast-paced speed of breaking news. Early in the film, the accelerator is pressed to the floor and never lets up. One pleasure of the film is watching dogged correspondents at work riding the adrenaline rush of getting scoops. Against the odds of India’s increasingly grim news landscape, Kumar remains a beacon of hope in his professionalism and mentoring of younger reporters. Their perseverance amidst chaos is a wonder to behold.
Founded in October 2022, MetFilm Distribution is a boutique all rights distributor releasing a curated slate of films across the UK and Ireland.
Recent titles include FASHION REIMAGINED, LOVING HIGHSMITH and A BUNCH OF AMATEURS.
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