: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Production


Bengali immigrant, Tipu, is living the American dream in Detroit. Now, his younger brother is coming to join him––with dreams of his own.


DHAKA/DETROIT is a hybrid documentary that is as cinematic as it is down-and-dirty vérité. It follows the stories of three characters, Tipu; Rabby; and a group of unfortunate Bengalis whose daily experiences in the Bengali capital of Dhaka intrinsically form a third character.

            The film begins with Tipu, a thirty-year-old Bengali who immigrated to Detroit twelve years ago, alone with little means. Today, he is the epitome of the American Dream, with a wife and three-year-old daughter; his own home; three businesses; and U.S. citizenship. But, despite his success, Tipu longs to return to the life he knew as a youth in Dhaka. Meanwhile, Tipu's lighthearted eighteen-year-old brother, Rabby, is happily living in Dhaka with his parents and the rest of his family. The family's life is brought into focus, and it is surprisingly Western. Rabby and his sisters joke around, fiddle with smartphones and watch TV. Everyone loves one another and wants to stay together. They are a model family living amidst the crushing poverty and struggles for existence that constitute the world around them.

            The third story and perspective unfolds similarly. The daily experiences of the butcher in the street; the beggar; the children in the slum; the rickshaw driver and garment worker are revealed through touching interviews, and by intimately following the characters through their typical days. Their stories are heartbreaking; sometimes even brutal. But they are hopeful as well. We begin to understand how they transcend this reality and find peace amongst the shambles.

            We learn that Rabby's father has decided for Rabby to immigrate to Detroit to live with Tipu, and soon, whether he likes it or not, Rabby will be spirited away from the only life he has known to cut his path in the West, and become a man. While in Detroit, Tipu works constantly, dreaming about his idealized past in Bangladesh. In interviews, he talks enthusiastically about the land and people he loves, what he misses, and what he remembers best––it is all wonderful; pure nostalgia.

            The three stories, characters and perspectives expand, deepen and overlap. Rabby is plucked out of his life in Dhaka and dropped into Detroit, into Tipu's house and into his restaurant. While Rabby struggles to begin his new life, Tipu works harder than ever, escaping into reveries of life when he was a child. But the hard lives of our third characters reveal a difficult truth––Tipu's Dhaka is gone forever.

            The overall film is a vivid illustration of life in the Third World; the sorrows and joys of immigrating to America; and the realizing of the American Dream. The strength of Tipu's and the other characters' stories is that they are starting points for especially poignant, open ended questions concerning our unifying nature, our desires to live beyond the confines of our immediate reality and the mysterious power of our dreams. Each individual story provides its own evolving perspective on these questions and themes, and together culminate in a uniquely hopeful vision of life itself.  


In making DHAKA/DETROIT, my artistic intention is to sensitize audiences to the physical settings and emotional landscapes of the film's characters. To do so, I am using a very flexible approach combining an observational, cinema vérité style with straight to camera interviews and rich, cinematic montages designed to express feelings and ideas communicated by the characters that cannot be expressed through a traditional vérité style, alone. The film will combat negative belief systems, prejudices and stereotypes concerning race, religion and immigration at both the local and national level (the subject being Third World Muslim immigrants) by simply relating to audiences the shining truth of the matter––they work hard, love their families, strengthen our communities, and all of us are better for it. By focusing on the characters' common values, ideas and feelings about things as they relate to Westerners'––indeed, to all peoples'––the film will transcend politics and thereby reach a wider audience and be altogether more effective in both popularizing a positive narrative, and disrupting the stereotypes and prejudices that plague much of our current discourse on race, religion and immigration.   

            I have filmed extensively with the characters in Dhaka, both in their home and in the broader streets and villages of Bangladesh, as well as in Detroit. To minimize our presence on location, I operate camera and work with a sound recordist, only. My aim has been to capture intimate exchanges between family members and quiet moments alone with individual characters with absolute clarity and candidness. I abstain from long lenses, opting instead to film very close to characters, oftentimes as close as possible, so audiences feel as though we are entirely in the characters' world with them, rather than unemotionally viewing them from afar, indifferent and detached. Our rapport with our characters is wonderful and we have spent much time together. Our close filming does not feel invasive, and we have captured many terrifically candid moments with intimacy and heart.   

            I have no preoccupation with any stylistic rules imposed from outside. At times, I break from what seems like a very strict observational style to directly interact with characters and even choreograph something. I use expressive montages assembled from both candid and choreographed photography to elucidate characters' visions and bring audiences into the characters' unique place of feeling and thinking. They buttress the straight to camera interviews and candid photography, flowing out of the characters' desires to articulate their memories, dreams and reflections. Dhaka and Detroit will intertwine as the film glides between characters. And being as the characters, stories and settings are innately related to one another, the transitions between them are natural, and they easily combine into one large, unifying story. The narrative will not be difficult to understand and enjoy. The tone of the film will be hopeful, and its form fluid, unhurried, focused and sincere. The story will carry audiences along with it naturally through its twists and turns, and its sound and imagery will be enchanting.


Bruno Lumetta - Writer, Producer, Director, DP
A native Detroiter, former truck driver, and art school dropout, Bruno Lumetta has written, produced, directed, shot and edited two experimental documentaries: the Detroit set cultural study, Notes from a Small House, and the Standing Rock, Dakota Access Pipeline hybrid doc-noir, Trouble at Sacred Stone. He has also produced and directed several web series for the Ford Motor Company.

Nicholas Paine - Producer
Nicholas Paine is a Los Angelis based freelance producer with over twenty years of experience producing national and global ad campaigns, feature length narrative films, and documentaries. He is currently producing the documentary feature, Dudamel, an expose of the critically acclaimed Venezuelan conductor and violinist.

Salvatore Lumetta - Producer
Salvatore Lumetta is a veteran commercial producer with over thirty years of experience producing both national and global ad campaigns. He is the president of Luminary Films, an acclaimed Detroit based production company.

Nick Peterson - Editor
Nick Peterson is a critically acclaimed writer, director, and editor. A graduate of Cal Arts, Peterson has written, directed, and edited nine shorts and one feature film. He has also directed several national and global commercials. His films have won numerous awards and have been screened at festivals like SXSW and Sundance.


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