Feature documentary in production. Supported by CAAM/PBS and Ford Foundation/Just Films.
As a youth growing up in Harlem’s Washington Carver Projects in the 1970s and 80s, Alaudin Ullah found himself through hip-hop and graffiti. He turned away from his Bangladeshi Muslim parents and rejected everything South Asian. Now, as an actor facing the most stereotypical South Asian and Muslim roles, he realizes he has nothing but stereotypes about his own father and mother; he knows nothing about who they were and about the lives they led. In Search of Bengali Harlem follows Ullah from the streets of Harlem to the villages of Bangladesh to uncover the pasts of his father, Habib, and mother, Mohima. On the journey, we discover that Habib was part of a hidden history of South Asian Muslim men who were rendered “illegal” by the Asian Exclusion laws of the 20th century, but who quietly disappeared into existing communities of color in Harlem and the Lower East Side. Here, along with their African American and Puerto Rican wives, they created a vibrant multiracial community under the radar of the immigration laws. We also discover, with Alaudin, the the struggles that defined Mohima’s childhood in her home village, and her strength and courage as one of the first women to immigrate to the United States from rural Bangladesh.
Directors: Vivek Bald & Alaudin Ullah