When Oscar Grant was shot while coming home from New Year’s Eve celebrations on January 1, 2009 at a public transit stop in Oakland, Calif., it made headlines, not only in Northern California but across the country. The news of a young, unarmed African-American man shot by police — and the event captured on cell phone videos and social media — illustrated racial tensions and police brutality in Oakland and many other communities, but for Fruitvale Station‘s writer/director Ryan Coogler, the story didn’t end after it left the newspapers.
“I was angry, frustrated, scared, and more than anything filled with questions as to how this could happen….Fortunately enough I have filmmaking as an outlet, which I thought was something that was positive, something that I figured could maybe help in a preemptive way,” Coogler says of his film in the clip below. Fruitvale Station chooses to focus most of its energy on the story of Grant’s life and his family, rather than the circumstances of his death. “Hopefully in the film people can see in Oscar’s personal relationships, see their own relationships… and how they view people that they normally would pass by or open up in the paper and not really care about,” Coogler says.
Michael B. Jordan, who plays Grant, echoes Coogler and notes that Oscar’s story signifies more than just the one incident. “Oscar Grant represents a lot of kids from the inner city who are trying to do the right thing.”
Oscar winner Octavia Spencer stars as Grant’s mother. “We all make mistakes, that doesn’t mean that every man shouldn’t get a second shot at redemption,” she says of the film. “The story itself isn’t a quote unquote ‘black’ story, it’s a human story and the message is very universal.” Spencer also notes that the film received a similar reception from audiences abroad at Cannes as it did at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic earlier this year.
Fruitvale Station arrives in theaters on July 12.