In a short film from Capital K Pictures, Sunayana Dumala shares the story of hate and murder that took her husband Srinivas Kuchibhotla’s life last year on February 22, 2017, in Olathe, Kansas. Directed by Sofian Khan and produced by Pulkit Datta, “Do We Belong?” is part of The Atlantic Selects, a showcase of short films curated by the publication.
The film’s moving narrative is underscored with music composed by Anne Chmelewsky, with Dumala filmed in the house where the couple lived, a home with a Ganesha placed at the entrance above colorful garlands. Photos show scenes from the building of their home, including one image of Sunayana and Srinivas smiling as they try different paint colors for their home. Video clips show his love of dancing at home with friends.
Dumala recounts what happened the night Adam Purinton, a U.S. Navy veteran, killed Kuchibhotla in a racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic homicide. She also discusses her work following his death, including her activism in immigration reform and spreading a message of love and acceptance of diversity in the U.S. “Do We Belong?” shares its title with the searing question Dumala asked in the aftermath of Kuchibhotla’s violent death, while speaking publicly and in a her Facebook blog post.
Independent filmmaker Sofian Khan has directed music videos for the Swet Shop Boys and worked on a number of documentaries, including one on the first days of the travel ban (“Act of Worship”). At The Atlantic, Khan shared what drew him to make “Do We Belong?”.
“The story really hit home,” Khan told The Atlantic. “My father came to the US in the ‘80s as a software engineer from India’s western neighbor, Pakistan, with a work ethic and ambition that reminded me of what I was reading about Srinivas. Even more than that, the descriptions of Srinivas’s positive nature and playful humor also felt very familiar. There was a sense that I somehow knew him.”
Growing up, Khan and his family heard about hate crimes motivated by Islamophobia—regardless of the victims’ religious backgrounds—following the first World Trade Center bombing, the launch of Desert Storm, and in the wake of 9/11. Fortunately, Khan’s family was spared, but the fear never left him. He was moved to contact Dumala and tell her story.