Smriti Mundhra is obviously “shell-shocked” and “overwhelmed” that “St. Louis Superman,” her latest documentary that she co-directed with Indo-Canadian filmmaker Sami Khan, is one of five finalists for an Oscar. But the Indian American filmmaker is also “profoundly grateful” for the nomination.
“Who would have thought an Indian girl from Los Angeles and a Muslim guy from Canada would get nominated for an Academy Award for a film about a black man from St. Louis?” Mundhra told India-West. “But that’s the power of storytelling – it can bring together people from different walks of life and corners of the globe to unite around a shared purpose.”
Mundhra went on share that in the process of making this film, she also made long-lasting connections.
“The nomination is a gift, but we really feel as though we’ve already won because we found each other,” she told India-West.
“St. Louis Superman,” a 28-minute documentary on former Missouri Rep. Bruce Franks, Jr., is among five nominees competing for the Oscars 2020 in the documentary short subject category. (See India-West story here: https://bit.ly/2FYw1UC)
A total of 96 films qualified in the category before members of the Documentary Branch of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences narrowed it down to ten. Five of them are now finalists.
Inundated with congratulatory messages on social media, Mundhra took to Twitter to share her emotions. “Life is crazy. I’m delirious with happiness. Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she wrote.
Among those who congratulated the team were Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo and San Antonio, Texas, Mayor Julián Castro.
This nomination marks the culmination of many years of effort. Looking back at her journey to this coveted nomination, Mundhra wrote: “When I couldn’t get my feature film financed after five years of trying, I turned to docs. In the past five years, I’ve made an award-winning feature doc, a Netflix doc series, two short docs and am an Academy Award nominee.”
“Yes, I was nominated for an Academy Award but did you know we also successfully potty-trained our toddler?! Huge week!” tweeted Khan.
So epic was Khan’s tweet that the Academy retweeted it with an Oscar emoji. “@samikhanfil’s reaction to becoming an #Oscars nominee! #OscarNoms,” read the tweet.
In another tweet, Khan thanked MTV Documentary Films chief Sheila Nevins, writing, “Thank you @thesheilanevins for having our backs!”
Other documentaries vying for the award are “In the Absence,” “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl),” “Life Overtakes Me” and “Walk Run Cha-Cha.”
The award-winning film from MTV Documentary films shows how Rep. Bruce Franks, Jr., a Ferguson activist and battle rapper who was elected to the overwhelmingly white and Republican Missouri House of Representatives, must overcome both personal trauma and political obstacles to pass a critical bill for his community.
Here’s the film’s description on Vimeo: “Known as Superman to his constituents, Bruce Franks Jr., is a political figure the likes of which you’ve never seen — full of contradictions and deep insights, who has overcome unspeakable loss to become one of the most dynamic and unapologetic young leaders in the country. This verite documentary follows Bruce at a critical juncture in his life. He’s forced to deal with the mental trauma he's been carrying for nearly 30 years, ever since his 9-year-old brother was shot and killed in front of him. Only by confronting his pain can Bruce find peace and truly fulfill his destiny as a leader for his community.”
“St. Louis Superman” is produced by Mundhra, Khan and Poh Si Teng and executive produced by Nevins and Fiona Lawson-Baker.
The film won the jury prize for the Best Documentary Short at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, the Audience Award for the Best Short at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, the Audience Award for the Best Short at AFI Docs, and the Special Jury Mention at the Tribeca Film Festival.
The 92nd Oscars will be held Feb. 9 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, and will be televised live on ABC.
Mundhra explored the institution of arranged marriages in India through her 100-minute documentary, “A Suitable Girl,” which made its debut at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in 2017 and went on to win the ‘Albert Maysles Best New Documentary Director Award’ at the fest.
Khan’s feature debut, “Khoya,” was selected for the Tribeca Film Institute’s Tribeca All Access fellowship.