Through the exploration of daily life and democracy, ‘Hamtramck, USA‘ examines the benefits and tensions of multiculturalism. Kicking the film off with a typical all American theme song, we take a trip down memory lane while a series of video clips and photographs of the small Michigan-city, grace the screen.
Formerly inhabited by almost solely Polish immigrants, Hamtramck has attracted a large muslim-community, making headlines all over the world as “the first muslim majority U.S. city”. Elections are coming up, and many citizens have discussed and agreed it’s time for a change. Mayor since 2006, Karen Majewski, loves every single one of her Hamtramckans, but as we later find out, also realises a young leader should rise, with fresh ideas to run the city she’s always loved so dearly.
Hamtramck, USA looks like the perfect little getaway surrounded by the city of Detroit, and in many ways it really is. The only tension that rises is mainly the divide between Yemeni and Bangladeshi, who respect each other, but won’t seem to want to work together. When the stakes are at their highest, every city council candidate and mayoral candidate suddenly learn new tricks from their amicable competitors to reach out in different languages and embrace all cultural backgrounds, if it means they can get more votes. In the end their collaborations will make Hamtramck a better city for everyone.
What’s so interesting about Hamtramck, USA is that there’s absolutely no narration throughout the entire film. We basically witness a chronological video diary on each one of them, personally and professionally over the course of 5 months – from the election primary up until beyond election day. It almost works as a travel advert for the city itself. Life is peaceful, people are friendly and everyone has respect for all the different cultures. Especially by taking a point of view as if both directors were bystanders throughout the entire election, makes the film feel raw and sincere without ever picking a side, but rather share the unity that is the core of this city. Technically simple, yet straight forward in what it’s trying to achieve, although it all feels a little bit unbalanced when it comes to sharing every candidate’s story equally.
Justin Feltman and first time director Razi Jafri capture the passion and heart of this multicultural community. Never shying away from the minor tensions, but embracing it by showing the change and partnerships that transcend far above race, religion, or background. A wholesome documentary showcasing a side of America we rarely get to see.
Hamtramck, USA will screen as part of Melbourne Documentary Film Festival from 30 June.
Tickets are available HERE
Melbourne Documentary Film Festival Review – ‘Hamtramck, USA’
Reviewed online, June 26, 2020. Rating: M. Running time: 93 min.
PRODUCTION: Producers: Justin Feltman, Razi Jafri. Executive producer: Doug Blush.
CREW: Directors: Justin Feltman, Razi Jafri. Editor: Luther Clement-Lam. Music: Colleen Burke.