31st & Troost filmmaker says local residents are finding their voice

Kevin Bryce says the people living and working at 31st and Troost have stopped waiting for Superman and have recognized there is a Superman in each of them. He’s created a documentary called We Are Superman that chronicles the transformation he sees around the corner – a place where Bryant and other younger people are now calling home.

Kevin Bryce says the idea to make a film about 31st and Troost grew slowly. When it began, he was a communications student at UMKC and didn’t have a car. He moved into the area, four blocks from the intersection.

“I am from a small rural town. When I moved here, I discovered the racial and economic divide. I was puzzled by why things were this way,” he says.

Bryce also began working for a nonprofit on the corner of 31st and Troost. He started to film things he was seeing, intending to make a 20-minute documentary. But it kept growing as he found new people and programs that needed to be added. It’s now an hour and 20 minutes long.

The film, We Are Superman, grew into a story about what is happening on the corner there. Bryant saw various groups of men, women and grassroots community organizations coming together, making improvements and taking back a block that’s long been thought of as one of Kansas City’s most neglected.

“You don’t see it unless you spend time here,” he says. “People drive by and it seems like an empty bus stop. But there’s really lots going on here.”

Bryce has interviewed people who have been working on improving Troost and erasing its stigma as the racial dividing line for as long as 30 years. Those folks appear in the film, including Mayor Sly James, Carol Grimaldi of Brush Creek Community Partners, Father Piasius Altschul of Troost Village, Anita Maltbia of the Green Impact Zone, and Rodney Knott of Reeengage Inc.  Bryant says they and others have paved the way for his generation, and many young people are now moving into the area.

“It’s turning a corner,” Bryce says. “The generation coming up, people my age, are living here. They’re moving here because they believe in the area and they have less fear of the area because of the work of the previous generation.”

Bryce envisions these new residents staying in the area, spending money in new businesses that could spring up along Troost, and continuing to create a community.

We Are Superman premiered last April at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and a short version will be shown in Kansas City this weekend. Bryce has submitted it to numerous film festivals, and he thinks it has a message that will resonate nationally.

“I think the concept of community building, where every individual matters, ought to be understood and implemented,” he says. “The idea is not to pour money into an area to fix it. That appears to fix it, but we are not looking to see rich people move here. The people who live here are finding their voice.”

The documentary (in a short form, since the full-length version has been submitted to film festivals) will be shown Friday, December 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Screenland Crossroads, 656 Washington Street. Subsequent screenings are Saturday, December 8 and Sunday, December 9 at Screenland beginning at 2:30 p.m.  There will be a reception after Friday’s premiere.


We Are Superman Facebook page


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