Friday, July 12, 2013

Octavia Spencer & Michael B. Jordan Tell Story of Oscar Grant III In "Fruitvale Station"

A 22-year-old Bay Area resident, Oscar (Michael B. Jordan) who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and feels something in the air. Not sure what it is, he takes it as a sign to get a head start on his resolutions: being a better son to his mother (Octavia Spencer), whose birthday falls on New Year’s Eve, being a better partner to his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz), who he hasn’t been completely honest with as of late, and being a better father to Tatiana (Ariana Neal), their beautiful four year-old daughter.


Crossing paths with friends, family, and strangers, Oscar starts out well, but as the day goes on, he realizes that change is not going to come easily. His resolve takes a tragic turn, however, when BART officers shoot him.

 Directed by 2013 Sundance Film Festival Award Winner, Ryan Coogler.

Fruitvale Station opens tomorrow (July 12) in NYC, LA and San Francisco.


On What Originally  Inspired Him (Coogler) To Make This Film:
  I was originally inspired to make this film by the event itself, as well as the aftermath. I was in the Bay Area, on Christmas break from film school when it happened. I heard that someone had been shot at the BART station, and that he passed away the next morning. On New Year’s Day I saw the footage, and I was deeply affected by it. Looking at the footage, I realized that Oscar could have been me…we were the same age, his friends looked like my friends, and I was devastated that this could happen in the Bay Area.
video video

During the trial I saw how the situation became politicized: depending on which side of the political fence people stood on, Oscar was either cast as a saint who had never done anything wrong in his life, or he was painted as a monster who got what he deserved that night. I felt that in that process, Oscar’s humanity was lost. When anyone’s life is lost, the true nature of the tragedy lies in who they were to the people that knew him or her the best.

The footage, the trial, and the aftermath filled me with a great sense of helplessness. Many people in the Bay Area community participated in protests, others took parts in rallies and marches. There were also many riots stemming from desperation. I wanted to do something to make a difference, and I thought that if I could bring the story to life through art, and give audiences the chance to spend time with a character like Oscar, it could maybe lower the chances of an incident like this happening again.

At the time of Oscar’s shooting, there were an overwhelming amount of witnesses who shared cell phone videos of the incident online. What role do you think this found footage played in the profile of the case, and how useful was it to you in making your film
Coogler:

The footage played a key role in this case, because if it had happened ten years earlier, when people didn’t have the type of technology that they did in 2009 that enabled them to record video instantly, Oscar’s death wouldn’t have had the impact that it did. It would have been people giving verbal accounts of what happened, as opposed to documenting it with video evidence. The footage makes everyone who watches it a witness to what happened, and it is ultimately what made the case different from other officer-involved shootings.

The footage was very useful in terms of blocking the scene and working out the individual beats. But it also made for an added level of emotional difficulty in making the film. I cannot count how many times I have seen Oscar get shot, over and over again, from different angles, and each time you see something like that, it’s like it takes a piece of you.

Aside from learning the story of his shooting and tragic death, what else do you want this film to teach audiences about Oscar Grant?

Coogler:I want audiences to know that he was a real person. He was a person with real struggles and personal conflicts, but also with real hopes, and real dreams, and goals. And his life mattered deeply to the people that he loved the most. I hope that the film gives the audience a proximity to characters like Oscar that reading a newspaper headline can’t.

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