Fruitvale Station - the award winning film about Oscar Grant that opened over the past weekend in select US city theaters and opens nationwide next week - is a highly recommended, really well made movie that anyone anywhere should enjoy viewing. But for those from the Oakland/Bay Area where the film's storyline is set (and filmed) the Ryan Coogler written and directed independent film will be particularly enjoyable, albeit sad and emotionally charged, since the storyline strikes so close to home. "Based on a true story" and capturing the final 24 + hours of the ill-fated life of the 22 year old African American, Hayward resident, who was famously shot and killed by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle in the early hours of New Year's Day 2009 in the BART station that carries the film's title, Fruitvale Station needs no spoiler alert. Unless you were living under a rock for the past four and a half years you know exactly what went down on that fateful day. Besides the film both opens and closes with the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant - the beginning done in that hand held phone/video style that most round the world saw on YouTube and the end in film style. Like any really good film where you already know the outcome of its storyline Fruitvale Station is such a well written, acted, and perfectly paced film that even knowing exactly how the story will unfold audiences were still silently glued to the screen - truly a testament to the skill of first time director/Richmond CA resident Ryan Coogler.
I went to see the film opening day at the California Theater on Kittredge St. in downtown Berkeley (one of three select Bay Area theaters it is currently playing in - it opens nationwide next week on July 26th) and from the beginning everyone in the theater was on the edge of their seat, or emotions rather, as the story (all set within a one day span) unfolded - with flashbacks to fill in the life of its subject and his family up until that day. At one point in the movie as Oscar Grant (brilliantly played by Michael B. Jordan known from his role as Wallace on The Wire) texted one of his buddies to say how for their tentative New Year's Eve night out in San Francisco, upon his mother's suggestion, that they should take BART rather than drive in on the freeway and over the Bay Bridge there was a collective gasp of horror in the East Bay movie theater. I could hear a woman behind me futilely, loudly whispering at the screen, "No!!!." Not surprisingly by the time the film got to its inevitable conclusion all in the theater audience were tearing up - as if learning of the tragic news for the first time.
I am not sure if the film, which is filled with recognizable East Bay location shots like one scene at the Park Gas & Food on 7th Street and Mandela Parkway near West Oakland BART or another scene inside a stalled-on-the-tracks BART train car in West Oakland where passengers dance to Mac Dre's hit "Feelin' Myself," will resonate quite as much with those outside the Bay Area. But for those of us who live in the Bay Area or are from the Bay Area and felt directly involved this was our story too; a story made all the more poignant with the recent verdict in the Zimmerman case.
To find movie theaters near where Fruitvale Station is playing click here. And check Amoeba
Music in the future for whenever the soundtrack is released which, as well as Mac Dre, includes
such other Bay Area artists as Mistah F.A.B., Cellski, and The Jacka. Below is the film's trailer.