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Documentary About Former Rep. Bruce Franks, 'St. Louis Superman,' Gets Oscar Nomination

Bruce Franks Jr. poses with a cape given to him by a supporter.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Bruce Franks Jr. poses with a cape given to him by a supporter after he won election to the Missouri House in 2016.

A year ago, Bruce Franks said he was talking with some of his closest colleagues in the Missouri House about his depression and anxiety — a period of time he described as “his lowest point.” 

On Monday, Franks received word that a documentary about his pathway and tenure in the Missouri House was nominated for an Academy Award. He said he’s feeling “poetic justice” about the honor.

“When I was watching and they announced our names, I jumped across the room,” Franks said. “I was yelling. I was happy. I was screaming. I was so excited. I was pumped. And then I just started crying. Because I remember where I was at a year ago, and I remember in my head it was better off for me not to be on this Earth. And a year later, we are nominated for an Oscar. I’m healthy. I’m doing well. Life is good.”

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences announced Monday that "St. Louis Superman" was nominated for a Best Documentary Short Subject Oscar. The 25-minute film, directed by Sami Khan and Smriti Mundhra, chronicles Franks’ journey from being a protester in Ferguson to a member of the Missouri House.

Franks said he hopes the nomination sends a message of hope to St. Louis residents who have struggled.

“When you see hope and you see hope that looks like you, that comes from where you come from, that resonates with you, that feels like you — that hope is what’s going to be inspirational,” Franks said. “We tell young people all the time that come from my community that it’s a big world and you can do it — but we don’t actually show them. And I think this is a way of showing them that there is hope.”

When asked if he plans to attend the Academy Awards ceremony, Franks replied: “Oh, hell yeah.” 

“I don’t feel like it’s me there. I feel like the whole of St. Louis is there,” Franks said. “I feel like everybody who’s ever supported me. Everybody who shut down a highway. Got pepper sprayed. Tear gassed. Everybody who stood out in the rain to vote for me. Everybody who donated to the campaign, because they felt that this was it. Anybody who ever stood for anything — and not just anything in St. Louis — with us being the building, we will all be there.”

Franks was first elected as a state representative for parts of St. Louis in 2016, unseating state Rep. Penny Hubbard in a closely watched election. He was re-elected in 2018 but chose to resign last year to tend to his mental health.

He said that he’s felt “amazing” since announcing that he was stepping aside from electoral politics.

“I haven’t felt like this in a long time, if ever. I feel like mentally and physically, I’m at 100% most days,” Franks said. “And even when I have those times where that anxiety may kick in, it’s only for a small second. Being able to have different breathing and different coping mechanisms, that helps me out a lot. Therapy helped me out a lot initially. And then it got to the point where I kind of could figure it out myself. But that’s still on deck if I need it.” 

The Academy Awards will be presented Feb. 9 in Los Angeles.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.