The 2014 killing of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri shook many Americans out of their longstanding complacency and indifference and served as a catalyst for new action and avocacy around the U.S. For many African-Americans, the tragic incident also reinforce the day-to-day reality that present-day conditions are rooted in the inequality, disparity, and violence have been common threads in the social fabric of America since its origin. St. Louis resident Bruce Franks Jr. took the shooting death of Brown as a clarion call of sorts, carrying the mantle of social activism straight into the Missouri House of Representatives and his work as an activist, organizer, and political force is chronicled in the Oscar-nominated short documentary St. Louis Superman.
In St. Louis Superman, Sami Khan and Smriti Mundhra share a multi-faceted profile of Bruce Franks Jr., offering insight on the many factors that have forged the 34-year-old’s world view and driven his efforts, from his work in the political arena and in the streets to intimate time spent with family and community. The presentation of the film isn’t particularly flashy or innovative but then again, it doesn’t have to be, as the story itself is thought-provoking and engaging.
Emerging as a common thread in the narrative of St. Louis Superman is the profound loss suffered by Harris at an early age when his older brother was killed in a shooting. In 1991, Christopher Harris was caught in a police shootout when a man used him as a human shield. Christopher was only nine years old when he was killed, just three years older than Frank. Throughout the course of his life, Christopher’s presence has remained at the forefront for Frank and in one particularly emotional scene of the film, St. Louis community honors the memory of his brother by dedicating a statue of Christopher at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.
Stirring and inspirational, St. Louis Superman offers a stark reminder that there are many pressing issues and tasks ahead in order to fundamentally change American society for the benefit of future generations. To be sure, the rigors of struggle and survival have already been significant for Frank, who has decided to take a break from public life to cope with mounting depression and anxiety. With so much left to be done, America needs many more people with his spirit and vision.
St. Louis Superman is a powerful documentary with an important message. Inside Your Head offers props to the film and those behind it, awarding it four and a half out of five golden top hats.