Award-winning filmmaker Vinay Shukla’s feature length documentary, While We Watched, has won the Amplify Voices Award at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF-2022).
Titled Namaskar! Main Ravish Kumar in Hindi, the “turbulent newsroom drama” chronicles the working days of broadcast journalist Ravish Kumar, as he “navigates a spiraling world of truth and disinformation,” an official release said.
The 94-minute documentary is a U.K. production, and is produced by LONO Studio and BRITDOC Films. It received a standing ovation at the screening in Toronto.
In the curator’s note, Thom Powers, Film Programmer, TIFF and Miami Film Festival, said, “ 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 from Russia to the United States.”
At the centre of the film is the 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 said.
Mr. Shukla rose to fame with the acclaimed The Insignificant Man, which followed the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party and Arvind Kejriwal.
Describing the film as his love letter to journalism, Mr. Shukla said, “Journalists are the foremost storytellers of our time. I spent two years in Ravish's newsroom, watching him build his daily broadcast. Ravish and his team would get some stories right, some stories just about. Watching him, I realised that for every report that we see on the news, the journalist behind the report pays a cost — an emotional, financial, ethical, and mental cost. No story is easy, every story is personal. This film is about that personal cost that journalists pay to do their job right.”
He said his film would apply to all journalists who stood their ground and chose to file a story that was true to their beliefs.
Luke W. Moody, one of the film’s producers, remarked, “In this moment, we’re seeing a new wave of truth and what we understand to be news being manipulated globally to serve the dangerous power of the few. Who will speak up for truth and debate in the dark noise of propaganda? Vinay’s film is a dignified, stirring lens into that abyss and a call to recognise what we might lose while we watched."
First presented in 2020, independent Indian filmmakers have completed a hat-trick by winning three Amplify Voices awards in a row. In 2020, Chaitanya Tamhane’s The Disciple won the award, and in 2021, Payal Kapadia’s A Night of Knowing Nothing bagged it.