A documentary, directed by Smirti Mundhra and Sami Khan, on rapper and activist Bruce Franks Jr., has been nominated in the documentary short category for an Oscar. “St. Louis Superman” tells the story of Franks, who was inspired to run for office by the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.
News reports says the documentary tells the story of how he beats the odds and is elected as a Democrat to the Missouri House of Representatives, an overwhelmingly white and Republican chamber.
Known as ‘Superman’ to his constituents, Frank is described in the documentary as “a political figure full of contradictions and deep insights, who has overcome a great deal of loss to become one of the most dynamic and unapologetic young leaders in the country.”
According to St. Louis magazine, the half-hour documentary, produced by Meralta Films, “depicts Franks' experiences with mental trauma after losing loved ones to gun violence.” Frank’s 9-year-old brother was shot and killed in front of him. The documentary chronicles his efforts to create change through legislation.
Mundhra told the Hindustan Times that when she was approached by Al Jazeera’s producer Poh Si Teng to make a 30-minute documentary, she was already contemplating working on a film based on the life and work of Franks. It was then that she asked Khan to come on board as a co-director.
Mundhra has been working in the film and television industry for over 15 years. Her latest film, the documentary “A Suitable Girl,” had its world premiere in the documentary competition section of the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. It received rave reviews, and was awarded the Albert Maysles Best Documentary Director prize at the festival.
Prior to “A Suitable Girl,” Mundhra produced “Bomb the System,” a 2004 Independent Spirit Award nominee for Best First Feature. She also produced the feature film “Waterborne,” which won the audience award at SXSW film festival.
She also co-produced “Punching at the Sun,” an official selection of the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, as well as over one dozen award-winning short films, including the 2010 Sundance Film Festival official selection and Women In Film award winner “New Media.”
Mundhra holds an MFA in Film from Columbia University. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, screenwriter Christian Magalhães, and their daughter Isabel.
Khan is a New York City-based filmmaker whose work has screened at leading festivals including the Toronto International Film Festival and the Mumbai Film Festival.
His feature film debut, “Khoya,” was selected for the Tribeca Film Institute’s Tribeca All Access fellowship in 2016. The film tells the story of a man traveling to India to solve the decades-old mystery surrounding his adoption.
Along with filmmaking partners Michael Gassert and Jonathan Miller, Khan is producer and co-director on “The Last Out,” a documentary in post-production that tells the harrowing tale of four Cuban baseball players and their dangerous journeys out of their homeland and into the United States.
Khan is an adjunct filmmaking lecturer at Columbia University and Brooklyn College. He graduated from Columbia University with an MFA in film.