“Before I was Bruce Franks, state rep. of the 78th District, I was Oops In The Building,” Bruce Franks Jr. would often say when given he was given space to address audiences. He was a frontline protestor who forayed his activism into politics.
As Oops, he was a battle rapper and respected member of the St. Louis hip-hop scene looking to put on for his city through his music.
“I’m always gonna be Oops,” Franks would also often say.
But it would be his work as Bruce Franks that eventually caught the attention of MTV.
His commitment to the movement was conveyed through “St. Louis Superman,” a short film that was a project of documentary arm of the iconic brand that linked music and visual storytelling and imagery for nearly 40 years.
Franks’ story will be shared on Sunday, November 17 as part of the Race In America sidebar of Cinema St. Louis’ 28th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival – which is currently underway and continues through November 17 at various locations.
“Listen, y’all don’t even understand what this means or how HUGE this is,” Franks said via Facebook upon sharing the initial news of the documentary. “I’ve gone through so much these last couple years!”
The film premiered at Montana’s Big Sky Documentary Festival in February before an impressive festival run that included the Tribeca Film Festival. “St. Louis Superman” also aired on various MTV Platforms ahead of its SLIFF premiere.
When unarmed teen Michael Brown was fatally shot in the Canfield Green Apartments, he took to the streets in protest and found purpose and passion.
Like so many others, filmmakers Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan became fascinated with Franks after seeing his commitment to social justice through protest by way of social media and wanted to give more insight into his unique experiences as a legislator, freedom fighter and lyricist committed to being the change he wanted to be in his city.
For many of the 2017 protests that took place in response to the not guilty verdict of former police officer Jason Stockley in the fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, Franks would end the demonstrations with a powerful call and response chant, “I believe that we will win – I know that we will win.”
At the time he was serving the people in protest and political office – while juggling everyday life and suffering through unimaginable tragedies, including the death of his godson and best friend.
Insight on his work das a change agent while attempting to balance real life is the crux of the 90-minute film. The postscript to “St. Louis Superman” was that the 24-hour cycle of change agent/elected official/community advocate and leader became so taxing that he made the difficult decision to step down from office for the sake of his mental health.
“The past three years have been both incredibly rewarding and unexpectedly depleting,” Franks said in an op-ed for The American that gave context to his decision to leave political office. “From winning an election that nobody thought I could win to being a young black man from an economically distressed community sitting here in this legislative body, this has been an essential step for me and for the people I represent, who too rarely see someone who looks like them serving in government.”
In his resignation note, he acknowledged the toll three years of nonstop grinding had taken on his physical and mental health. Stepping away for healing is a revolutionary act in itself. And even in doing so, he vowed to continue his fight for change.
“While I am resigning my title and seat in this body, I am not resigning my role as a leader for my community — instead, just redesigning it to be the most effective I can be,” Franks said. “So that includes taking care of my mental health and advocating that others in my community do the same.”
“St. Louis Superman” will air at 4 p.m. on Sunday, November 17 at the Missouri History Museum. For a full schedule of the Cinema St. Louis 28th Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival, visit www.cinemastlouis.org.