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A Trip to Fruitvale Station
Oscar Grant III
How many people have heard of the name Oscar Grant? Some have, but most have not. Fruitvale Station is the broadcast of the last few moments of Grants young life. It's amazing how after watching a film such as Fruitvale Station that one's viewpoint of life could be described as "moments." When you know (and seriously realize) that death could be around the corner, life somehow becomes just a sequence of moments. This thing called Life is the greatest storyteller ever to exist. Who tells a story better than a life experience? Grant’s story is a very familiar story, and it's a story that a lot of us share.
Women will never fully understand what it is like to be man and women will never fully get what it’s like to be a black man (or latino man, or asian man, etc) but no one should ever underestimate the pressures that men face in their lifetimes and no one other than another man can really understand the hardships that come with their responsibilities. Oscar's story breaks gender lines. Here is a young adult trying to find his way in the world. This young man has made mistakes, reaped the consequences and is trying to make better decisions. Here is a family oriented human being who just wants to take care of his daughter, mother and the love of his life but is challenged by just how to do it. Here is a person just hoping and praying for some relief but still knowing how to make the best out of what he has. His last night alive, Oscar Grant was trying to make the best out of his current situation. It was a brand new year, sure to be full of new chances and opportunities. Unfortunately, he would never get to see that year unfold.
Writer and director, Ryan Coogler, commented on the making of Fruitvale Station: "We shot here [BART station] for three nights after the station was closed. Everybody was there with us: BART employees, safety monitors, train drivers, all the cast members and crew. Some of us would pray; others would just keep to themselves. The energy of it hit everybody. It was the hardest thing I've done in my life, making this movie. Having to see [real-life hero] Oscar die so many times. And having to see the people react to it. That never gets easy, man. Never." (www.imdb.com)
Speechless. Full of tears and speechless is how this movie leaves some feeling. Some may not care for the President but he painted a very good picture of a certain man’s reality. There is a certain man who’s reality is that woman who clutches her purse when he comes around. There is a certain male who hears car locks click when walking down a sidewalk. This movie portrays Grant as a helpful person and because of his character he was able to break racial lines. This was Oscar Grants reality and unfortunately for him, and for us, his reality was fatal.
Michael B. Jordan
Michael B. Jordan plays the role of 22 year old Grant. Jordan is one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood. Michael was considered one of 55 Faces of the Future by Nylon Magazine’s Young Hollywood issue and was nominated 3 years in a row (2005, 2006 & 2007) for a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Daytime Drama Series. Michael is recognized in films such as “Hardball: (starring Keanu Reeves) and for his role as Maurice “Bumps” Wilson in George Lucas’ “RedTails.” His television career includes roles on “Cosby,” “The Wire,” “Friday Night Lights” and NBC's "Parenthood." This recent role in Fruitvale hopefully catapults his career so that we may continue to see him on the big screen.
Melonie Diaz is not new but she is a fresh face on the hollywood scene. She’s guest-starred on many television favorites like “NipTuck”, “Person of Interest”, and “Law & Order.” She isn’t a stranger when it comes to independent films. In 2002, she starred in “Raising Victor Vargas,” which won 3 awards. Melonie plays Sophina, Grant's girlfriend and mother of his daughter. Watching Melonie play this role was beyond moving. The spotlight is now on Melonie. She portrayed her character well, showing Sophina as a super-strong young lady.
Academy Award winning actress Octavia Spencer plays Grant's prayer warring mother. Octavia’s most memorable role to date is her role as Minny Jackson in the award winning film “The Help.” What most do not know is that Octavia has been around Hollywood for over a decade. In 1995, she starred next to Sandra Bullock in “A Time to Kill,” propelling her to other roles in films like “Seven Pounds” and theatre plays such as “The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailor Trash Housewife.” Seeing Octavia play Grant's mother was inspiring; she portrayed Grants mother as a strong, loving yet sensitive woman. One of the strongest scenes in the movie featured Octavia. Ms. Grant was told she could only see her son but could not touch him due to the fact he was now evidence in a homicide. With tears flowing down her face, she pleads with the nurse and says “Please! Please let me hug him.”
Because this is an article, I cannot literally say “I have no words” when it comes to this film. Fruitvale Station is well deserving of its Sundance and Cannes awards and first time director Ryan Coogler deserves even more praise. Born and raised in sunny California, Coogler decided to tell a story that is prevalent in our country but heavily ignored in our society and with the help of Academy Award winning Forrest Whitaker, this story has reached the big screen. Fruitvale is dramatic, heavy and emotional. It pulls on your heart strings and makes your eyes water. I ask that when watching this film, try putting yourself in each of the character’s shoes; one incident, many witnesses and a plethora of viewpoints. Everybody’s reality is different but it’s not too different that understanding is not achievable.