Most filmmakers, especially those who make documentaries, want to see their films stand for more than a few showings. With We Are Superman, directed by Kevin Bryce, the documentary now finds a ready audience with Communities Creating Opportunity, the organization related to PICO, a faith-based community organization aimed at social justice that unites diverse cultures, ethnicities, faith traditions, and experiences. Often, the groups organize to celebrate inclusion or fair wages.
Bryce graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a degree in Communications. As a student, he also worked for the university paper. The summer after graduating, he entered an internship with an organization at 31st and Troost. It didn’t take long to understand the newsworthiness of what he was witnessing: a grass roots movement by both public and private citizens to address the attitudes toward Troost and revitalize its physical and psychological foundation. We are Superman is an emotional testament to a select few who are working tirelessly in the heart of Kansas City at the corner of 31 Street and Troost Avenue; working to transform a dividing line into a gathering place.
Bryce is clear that making this documentary has been an education and privilege for him. “I want to tell the story of people who have devoted their lives to the revitalization of the Troost Corridor.” The documentary headlined the 2013 Kansas City Film Fest and played at the 2013 Middle of the Map Fest. “As we look to 2014 we are excited to see the film begin to have a life of it’s own. We Are Superman is out on DVD and we don’t have any costs or stipulations on public screenings. What we’re seeing is many churches, nonprofits, and social action groups hosting their own screenings; I’ve heard of 4 thus far and more being planned. We as filmmakers have made ourselves available to come and participate where needed but what’s most important for us to see is the community taking ownership of the story of Troost and stepping up–gathering together to transform the Troost divide.”
Andrew Kling, who leads communications at CCO in Kansas City, says the documentary goes hand in hand with CCO’s efforts. “We have worked hard to foster powerful change in the Kansas City metro for 35 years. We Are Superman profiles the efforts of members of our local community to overcome the deep wounds in our city caused by racism and economic greed. It is a striking and beautifully shot movie, one with an informative insight into where we are as a city, how we got here, and a glimpse of what we can do to restore our community,” he says. “What Kevin has done is a beautiful job lifting up Kansas City and the community. There is a tenderness in the subject.”
In the documentary, many community leaders and civic patrons offer their support for change, but Kling also notes that Bryce and his team deserve significant credit. “We know that artists are significant storytellers and the concepts of pain, suffering and hope in film far exceed anything that policy papers could ever do. It’s more than political speeches can do. The film fits right along with our organization’s responsibility to tell the stories that are facing the community. In each artist, there is a heart for justice.”
Some of those representing city and civic groups in the documentary include Kansas City Major Sly James, Rodney Knott of ReEngage Inc., Father Paisius Altschul of Reconciliation Services, Molly Fleming-Pierre of CCO at Signature Gathering Training, Sister Berta Sailer of Operation Breakthrough, Anita Maltbia of the Green Impact Zone, and Carol Grimaldi of Brush Creek Community Partners.
One such effort for CCO is to bring payday loans companies in line. “When you see communities bled out by organized greed,” Kling says, “it sticks with you. Just like Kevin, we are trying to tell a story that is impactful. At the premiere, Kevin talked about his hope that people will take this movie and understand the issues a little more; it is our hope as well. Our goal is that more choose to step up and realize that injustice doesn’t happen far away, but it is here. With cinematic and visual artists … we have the artistic community here to not only elevate the pain, but also the stories of perseverance. Artists are often at the forefront of those who want to bring about changes. It is so encouraging when people step forward.”
Kling hopes that congregations and others interested in their community seek out the DVD. “We want everyone to see the documentary. There is a reason that Troost is a dividing line and we need people to see the documentary and be challenged. We are living in a community that is hurting. The pain in the community can be named and then with that, there can be an honest conversation. The key is that no one will do this for us; we have to change the community ourselves. We hope those who see it are moved and inspired to do something. I hope they comprehend the movie and value those that are bettering the community and consider joining one of the groups. I moved back here to join CCO. I know what I want my city to look like.”
CCO will continue the discussion about Troost into 2014, Kling says. “It’s ongoing. For us, it’s about continuing the dignity of people. As we are a faith-based organization, we believe we aren’t living our faith if we aren’t lifting people up. It’s not about accepting the status quo. Everything we do is to advance others. If people act out of fear and greed, the community suffers. We will be doing some civic engagement, looking at health care access and equity. There are citizenship issues and economic equity. A man we work with makes $8 an hour and works 70 hours a week. He can’t tell his story because he doesn’t have time. It’s a luxury he doesn’t have, but we can lift up his story. We will expand opportunities on both sides of Troost. We need to work toward changing the circumstances that encourage the violence. Nothing stops a bullet like a job. It’s about creating new opportunities together.”
To purchase the documentary, visit http://wearesuperman-themovie.com/.