By Tonya Pendleton
“Fruitvale Station” is not just the name of the movie, it’s the actual Bay Area Transit Station (BART) where the murder of 22-year-old Oscar Grant took place on New Year’s Day 2009. Grant was heading home to Oakland after a night of partying in San Francisco when a scuffle on the train led transit police to respond. What happened next, recorded by riders on the stopped train, shocked witnesses and the entire Bay Area. While Grant’s killer, a BART office was tried and convicted, he ultimately served just two years.
African-American director Ryan Coogler, 27, also a Bay Area resident, was one of the people stunned by Grant’s murder and his film details the last day in Grant’s life. It’s a nuanced, lean portrait of an imperfect man striving to do better, whose future was denied by an unnecessary application of deadly force. The film has received accolades including the Grand Jury and Audience Awards at the Sundance Film Festival and the “Prize of the Future” award at the Cannes Film Festival.
“Fruitvale Station” opened in limited release last week, but expands to theaters nationwide this weekend. Here are five reasons you should make it part of your weekend plans.
1. RYAN COOGLER
Like John Singleton and Spike Lee before him, Coogler has made an impressive first feature that has Hollywood hailing him the next big thing. He’s just signed on to direct “Creed” the seventh film in the “Rocky” series and apparently not to continue along the cheesy path of the last few. Jordan is also attached which means that the two will continue their already fertile creative partnership. Black directors are still much too rare in Hollywood and if this new crop of auteurs like Coogler and Ava Duvernay are what’s next, we’re very happy.