The revolution may not be televised, but it could be inspired by a movie.
In the upcoming film Fruitvale Station, filmmaker Ryan Coogler aspires to spark conversation about racism, police violence and human neglect by retelling the true story of slain 22-year-old Oscar Grant’s last day alive.
Since its premiere at Sundance, the movie has received continuous accolades from critics and audiences, all attesting to its visceral realization of humanity. As it nears theatrical release, the first-time director along with stars Octavia Spencer and Michael B. Jordan explain why Grant’s life still matters.
“Oscar is a character you would usually see in a very one-sided view,” Coogler tells theGrio. “Man shot dead; man killed; 22-year-old guy; goes to prison; does jail time. Nobody was talking about the fact that this human being didn’t make it home to the people whose lives he mattered most.”
He adds, “In the media, if you look a certain way, people don’t think about that if you die. They think, ‘Oh this dude deserved it. He was on the streets thugging. He had been arrested. He doesn’t have a daughter, he just got some girl pregnant.’”
Recounting Grant’s final day with truth
Grant, an African-American living in Oakland, was shot by a white police officer at a BART Station in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009. At the time of his death, Grant’s story made headlines due to the questionable nature of his execution, and the fact other passengers on the train caught it on their camera phones.
As seen in numerous YouTube accounts, Grant, who was unarmed, appears to barely be moving with his face down onto the ground when the cop pulls out a gun, and fatally shoots him in the back.
The movie reenacts the killing along with events leading up to it that day. It also alludes to Grant’s past struggles dealing drugs, serving time in prison, attempting to reform his life, and working on relationships with his girlfriend, mother, and four-year-old daughter.
“My goal was focusing on what made him human,” Coogler explains.
For Jordan, who’s being described as “the next Denzel Washington,” portraying Grant meant embodying a man’s propensity for change, and how fallacies of the system hinder his progress.
“I had to represent a guy that didn’t have many options,” Jordan recognizes. “[Grant] stood for a man that was trying to do the right thing, He was trying to be a better brother, a better son, a better dad, a better lover, a better person. He was really trying to do all those things. He was a family man. He cared about the people who were close to him.”