This winter, Sami Khan ’02 achieved something he never thought possible. The film he co-directed — “St. Louis Superman,” which he directed with Smriti Mundhra — earned an Academy Award nomination. The short documentary depicts the daily life of battle rapper and activist Bruce Franks Jr. as he works to address gun violence in Missouri.
Khan and Mundhra began discussions with Franks, the former St. Louis State Rep, about how to share his powerful story in 2017. It wasn’t the first time Franks had been approached by filmmakers. He was skeptical and reluctant to sell his story and simply be portrayed as a young African American male in politics through manufactured scenes.
This made the project perfect for Khan. His documentary filmmaking style is one that sees the informational portion as second to the emotion and exploration of the story. This is something he learned when developing his thesis film at Ithaca College, which was a documentary on a tainted water scandal. It was informational, but what really interested him were the stories of the survivors, the part that hooked people in and made them care about the characters.