I recently posted on Facebook that it was time to step away from Paint Mode and get back into Writing Mode. A very important part of getting into that mindset means reading and watching well told stories. One that I highly recommend is the recently released movie “Fruitvale Station” starring Michael B. Jordan. Cast members also include Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (Wanda), Melonie Diaz (Sophia), Ariana Neal (Tatiana), Ahna O’Reilly (Katie) Kevin Durand (Officer Caruso) and Chad Michael Murray (Officer Ingram).
In a way it feels odd referring to this movie as a “well told story” because it is based on the life of a real person – the late Oscar Grant – brilliantly portrayed by Jordan. Truth is we all have a story, Grant’s just so happens to have been one that made headlines back in 2009, and to this day, serves as a measure for the changes that still need to be made in today’s society.
“Fruitvale” begins with the actual cell phone footage taken by a subway passenger on the day Grant was harassed, beaten and fatally shot by Bay Area Rapid Transit cops on a subway platform. Movie-watchers are then taken back in time to the beginning of Grant’s day and treated to a look at how the last 20 plus hours of his life may have transpired. We learn that at the young age of 22, Grant was a caring father, a loving son and brother, a passionate boyfriend and a good friend. He was also a young man with a recorded trying to better his ways to do right by his family. The movie’s writer/director Ryan Coogler, 27, does an excellent job in his feature film debut at showing how Grant’s life was like that of so many African-American young men in this country simply trying to make it from day to day.
Coogler makes us care about a person who most might view as a typical thug. And much like the highly publicized Trayvon Martin case, Coogler makes you see the injustice that black men face in our society on a regular basis. “Fruitvale” does not leave one feeling that all young black males are all one way or another. Just that they are human and just as complex as anyone else. In a LA Times interview the mastermind behind the movie stated that he wanted Grant to be seen in a realistic light by the audience. “I tried to portray him in the way that the people closest to him knew him, both sides of him. I know people like Oscar — never all good or all bad.”
Coogler was awarded the Vanguard Award at Sundance for “Fruitvale,” which was produced by Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker and co-executive produced by Spencer, the film’s co-star. Click here to watch a video of Coogler’s acceptance speech where he talks about the inspiration for “Fruitvale” and his movie-making process.
After reading this post I hope that you will go out and support “Fruitvale Station” at your local theaters (notice I said at “theaters”). Even though you enter this movie knowing how it ends, the journey that Coogler, Jordan and the rest of the talented cast takes you on is well worth the ride. And as a heads-up I’m telling you now, this movie is an eye-leaker. Even those who consider themselves hardcore and unaffected by most forms of entertainment need to bring some tissue. Oscar Grant’s story is relatable, full of emotion and one that deserved to be told.
Until next time…
Photo of Ryan Coogler/Thinkprogress.org