HAMTRAMCK, USA

Directed by Justin Feltman, Razi Jafri

 The first majority Muslim city in the U.S., Hamtramck, Michigan, is “the world in two square miles.” This film follows Yemeni, Bangladeshi and Polish American candidates as they vie to be mayor and city council members, showcasing the hopeful strengths of diversity and democracy in a time when they are threatened by rampant xenophobia and racism.

Surrounded by Detroit, Hamtramck is the most densely populated municipality in Michigan. The city’s nickname is “the world in two square miles,” and it is well-earned, with a population that’s about 20% Bangladeshi American, 20% Yemeni American and 14% Polish American. Hamtramck garnered national attention in 2004 when its mosques pushed for the right to broadcast the call to prayers over loudspeakers, a right which they won, in part due to the support of then-city council President Karen Majewski, who became Hamtramck’s first woman mayor in 2005.

Now Majewski is running for a third term against two Bangladeshi American candidates, Mohammed Hassan and Asm Rahman, while Fadel Alarsoumi and other Bangladeshi and Yemeni Americans vie for the city council. We see them campaign door-to-door, at Polish dances and Eid celebrations, and glimpse a city where mosques and cathedrals are at peace. At a time when religious and ethnic tensions are high around the world, HAMTRAMCK, USA is a hopeful sign that democracy and goodwill can win the race.

— Ravi Chandra

Director Biographies: Justin Feltman graduated from Pacific Union College, where he studied Film and Business Administration with a Marketing emphasis, building an understanding of the art and business of filmmaking. Justin has worked on several independent films and documentaries such as Napa Valley Dreams and CHECK IT. He has produced several short films, a web series, music videos, and promotional videos for small businesses, political campaigns, and nonprofits. Justin is also interested in photojournalism and had work featured in Huffington Post. He, along with co-director, Razi Jafri, is directing and producing his first feature documentary film, Hamtramck, USA, about democracy in America’s first Muslim majority city.

Razi Jafri is a Detroit-based documentary photographer and filmmaker whose work focuses on ethnicity, religion, culture, immigration, democracy, and the changing cultural landscape in America. He is currently project manager and photographer at the Center for Arab American Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where he is curating and managing an exhibit series focused on Muslim visibility in southeast Michigan. The exhibits will be shown in multiple locations across the region through the end of 2021. He, along with co-director, Justin Feltman, is directing and producing his first feature documentary film, Hamtramck, USA, about democracy in America’s first Muslim majority city. Razi’s journalism work has been featured in the Detroit Free Press, National Geographic, National Public Radio, Michigan Radio, and other news outlets. He was previously a fellow in the Documenting Detroit Fellowship in documentary photography and photojournalism. Most recently he was named a member of the New York Foundation for the Arts Immigrants Artists Mentorship Program. Razi attended the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and received a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering.

Co-presented by: East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation