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Fruitvale Station and Oscar Grant

<em>Fruitvale Station</em> and Oscar Grant

| On Jul 19, 2013

From Craig Detweiler’s review, Fruitvale Station, Oscar, and Us 

There has been plenty of heat generated by the jury’s verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. I have read so many heartfelt responses and blog posts in an effort to understand what transpired. Some have been more helpful and insightful than others. With the Florida jurors now chiming in, Trayvon Martin’s shortened life may be buried under the rush for television ratings. That is why Fruitvale Station is such a timely and important movie. It allows us to step into the shoes of another young black man whose life was also cut short by a bullet. It is a rehumanizing experience arriving in a highly politicized moment.

By recounting the murder of Oscar Grant III by a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer on New Year’s Day 2009, Fruitvale Station reminds us how familiar, repetitive and tragic Trayvon Martin’s death remains regardless of where you stand on ‘stand your ground’ laws. It puts a highly memorable face to yet another homicide, turning a statistic into a father, a son, and a brother. It resists the temptation to make Oscar into a saint. He was an unmarried father and a part-time drug dealer with a criminal record who deserved much more than a shot in the back. Fruitvale Station shows how fragile and expendable we continue to make African-American men. They vacillate between the tragic poles of  “invisible man” and “suspect/target/victim.” Fruitvale Station is a poignant plea for healing, a deeply felt, highly personal film about how much every life matters.

Fruitvale Station is a remarkably assured first feature from Ryan Coogler, a young USC film school grad who recognized his similarities to Oscar.  It is an Oakland story told from an Oakland perspective. In chronicling Oscar’s last day, Coogler has wisely avoided hyperbole, concentrating upon the ordinary and mundane. Oscar is trying to figure out how to pay rent, how to be a good father, where to find a job that will earn enough for him to get married. His love for his girlfriend, his daughter, and his mother is clear. But the odds stacked against a young man with a prison record and a short fuse are also clear.

A few flashbacks and moments of introspection demonstrate the tenuous nature of Oscar’s situation. He could sell reefer to make ends meet. He could end up back in jail, fighting for his life on the prison block. Even talking on his cell phone while driving could cause a downward spiral. On New Year’s Eve, Oscar meets an Anglo businessman in San Francisco whose criminal actions didn’t disqualify him from the American dream. But the political overtones are rooted in character rather than speeches. This isn’t a loud film like Boyz ‘n the Hood or Menace II Society. It is a much gentler cry from a new generation still searching for sustainable alternatives.

Read the rest of the article here.

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