“We Are Superman” shows the challenges and hopes of a divided community
By Christina Lieffring
Troost has been and continues to be an economic and racial dividing line in Kansas City. Filmmaker Kevin Bryce knows Troost well: he received his film degree at UMKC and worked at Brainroot Light and Sound LLC, a film production company based in Midtown. It made sense for his first documentary to be about the transformations he was seeing in his neighborhood.
“I chose 31st and Troost because that’s what I was familiar with,” said Bryce. “I worked at 31st and Troost, I lived near 31st and Troost and that was the community I was getting to know.”
Rodney Knott, one of the main figures in the film, hired Bryce to film Knott’s “Man Class” in order to make a tutorial film.
“[The Man Class] tries to re-engage men back into the lives of their families and communities,” said Bryce. “It’s a very moving program, a very important program. [The tutorial] never happened but I had all this great footage and so I began to think, ‘What else can I do with it?’
Producer Christopher Cook got involved in the project because of his own interest in the area. “[Bryce and I] were both transplants to Kansas City,” said Cook. “I was always fascinated by the stigma that [Troost] had. I’d hear people say ‘Don’t go there, it’s not safe.’ But when we investigated it, it was just another street.”
Bryce set out to document the efforts of organizations and individuals to re-unite a divided community and rectify the systemic problems in their neighborhood.
The challenges faced by the neighborhood are many and include a myriad of social and economic issues, from banking to education to food. But their ambitions are just as lofty, ultimately hoping to form “Troost Village”- a self-sustaining community that includes banking, local businesses and a community garden.
“I was moved by the fact that there was a group of people that were transforming the divide of Troost Avenue and their story wasn’t being told,” said Bryce. “So that was a story that I was very compelled to tell.”
The filmmakers saw their role as filmmakers to help the people of Troost tell their story.
“As a documentary filmmaker, I guess as a storyteller in general, hopefully we are always aware of our role, for the most part, as an outsider,” said Cook. “One thing I am very happy that we were conscious of; we worked very hard to make sure the story we did tell was the story that all of these organizations felt were true to their cause.”
31st and Troost can seem a world away from Johnson County, but the filmmakers think there’s plenty for suburbanites to take away from the film.
“I want them to know their city, Kansas City’s urban core on a different level than what they see in 10 p.m. News,” said Bryce. “I want them to be inspired to be involved in their city… And I want them to know that if they want to see change, then its up to them.”
“I want people to take away a sense of hope,” said Cook. “That while these are pretty big problems, there are solutions out there.”