King Bruce Franks III, Bruce Franks, Jr.
Sami Khan, Smriti Mundhra
"St. Louis Superman" Snags Two Top Prizes at Indy Shorts Film Fest
Bruce Franks, Jr. and King Bruce Franks III
St. Louis Superman unsurprisingly claimed two top prizes during the 2019 Indy Shorts International Film Festival's awards ceremony on July 27th, the $5,000 top prize for Best Documentary Short and another $1,800 prize as the recipient of the inaugural Jenni Berebitsky Legacy Award, an award honoring longtime Heartland Film friend Jenni Berebitsky. Berebitsky was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease, ALS, in March 2009 and this award in her honor recognizes a film in the Indy Shorts lineup that best captures the triumph of the human spirit and a person's capacity to inspire others in much the same way that Berebitsky herself has done over the years before and after her diagnosis with ALS.
The film, co-directed by Sami Khan and Smriti Mundhra, tells the story of Bruce Franks, Jr., a Ferguson activist and battle rapper who was elected to the overwhelmingly white and Republican Missouri House of Representatives but who must continue to overcome both personal trauma and political obstacles if he hopes to pass a bill that is absolutely critical for his community.
St. Louis Superman wisely avoids unnecessary histrionics, instead trusting the inherent power of its story and, indeed, Franks is a rather remarkable and compelling young man whose entire being is enough to easily hold our attention over the course of the film's 28-minute running time. While the film's political sequences are incredibly well done, the film's true power comes in the scenes between Franks and his almost five-year-old son King Bruce Franks III. These scenes give the film a rawness and a tenderness that practically envelopes you even as you begin to get immersed inside the lives of a young man who has seen and experienced far too much at such a young age but who has managed to use those experiences to begin moving toward a better life for himself, his family, and his community.
At times, St. Louis Superman explodes with rage, a hard-earned and hard-lived rage birthed out of both heartbreak and infinite possibility. St. Louis Superman, which also picked up the Audience Award at AFI Docs Festival for short documentary, is easily one of the stand-out short docs for 2019 and should be considered a favorite for an Academy Award nomination come awards season.
I'll be rooting for St. Louis Superman and I'll be watching for Bruce Franks, Jr. to continuing changing his life and changing the world.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic