Oscars 2020: Malaysian producers didn’t win Best Documentary for Short Subject but they won our hearts

Actor Bruce Franks Jr., film director Smriti Mundhra, producer Poh Si Teng and director Sami Khan at Oscars 2020. (PHOTO: Rick Rowell/Getty Images)

As far as the spirit #MalaysiaBoleh goes, we can rest assured that Malaysian producers Poh Si Teng and Cheyenne Tan flew their country flag high at the Oscars 2020. 

Their documentary, St. Louis Superman, was nominated for the category Best Documentary for Short Subject, but they did not bring home the bacon; Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re A Girl) took home the grand prize instead. 


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Nevertheless, Penang-born Poh, who was formerly a New York Times journalist and Al Jazeera documentary commissioner, is cherishing every single moment at the prestigious award. She shared on her Facebook page: “We come as who we are, not what others expect us to be. It’s been quite a journey. Thank you to our families and our communities who believed in us when we doubted ourselves, who taught us to never forget where we come from, and who serve as a constant reminder of what the fight is about. We are here now at the 92nd Academy Awards, and we did it together. Thank you.”

While her co-producer Tan was not spotted at the awards, Si Teng brought smiles wearing a songket cheongsam dress by Malaysian designer Adila Long, and posing for pictures alongside Bruce Franks Jr., the leading actor of the short, as well as seasoned directors Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan. 

St. Louis Superman depicts the struggles of Franks Jr., 34, an activist and rapper who was elected to the overwhelmingly white Missouri House of Representatives. The short follows Franks as he navigates through his constituency, while overcoming a personal trauma he’s been carrying for over 30 years, when he witnessed his nine-year-old brother shot before his eyes.

St. Louis Superman has picked up awards at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Special Jury Prize at Tribeca and later at the Heartland Film’s Indy Shorts International Film Festival, which qualified them for the Oscars race.