Superman kept his sights on the plight of the oppressed as pepper spray-painted his eyes. Superman battled with Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives over gun violence legislation. Superman is not real, but battle rapping activist Bruce Franks Jr. bears all the scars of reality and puts them on display in a 25-minute short documentary titled St. Louis Superman. That same documentary just helped MTV’s new Documentary Films department garner its first Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Short at this year’s Academy Awards.
Co-directed by filmmakers Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan, St. Louis Superman chronicles the hardships concomitant of change and the superhuman burden those trying to enact it succumb to. The tear-gas showers, mental breakdowns and hundreds of funerals are burned indelibly into the mind of Frank, a man who is known in the battle rap scene as the ferocious Oops, and in the government as a former elected official in the Missouri House of Representatives. Three months after the documentary had its New York premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, the newly launched MTV Documentary Films acquired it. By the end of 2019, St. Louis Superman was one of the ten films shortlisted in the Best Documentary Short category at the Oscars, out of a pool of 96 qualifying films.
Before the documentary officially became one of the five nominees vying for the gold, Franks saw how even just being shortlisted changed his life. “There’s a lot more notoriety there. I didn’t understand how big it was, me not being in the film world. I didn’t understand how many people actually pay attention to the shortlist and all of that,” Franks told ONE37pm. “It’s helped me create a bigger reach. It helps with getting the message out there, as far as people tapping into what you’re doing.”
Franks spoke with ONE37pm days before the Oscar nomination about how MTV helped push the doc into the eyes of Oscar voters, how being a battle rapper prepared him for being a state representative and how his life has changed in the last year.