Sundance Film Festival: Fruitvale Scores Big After Gaining Distribution

By Arturo R. García

TRIGGER WARNING: Video contains footage from the shooting of Oscar Grant between :38-:58, between 3:25 and 4:02 and between 13:11 and 13:28.

Last week we mentioned that Ryan Coogler’s film Fruitvale had been picked up for distribution after becoming a favorite at the Sundance Film Festival. Now we know it’s leaving with the festival’s top honors, as well.

Saturday night, the movie won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic film, the first movie to do so since the Academy Award-winning Precious four years ago. As Vulture put it, “Start your 2014 Oscar watch now.”

On Friday, Coogler, a former social worker, was interviewed by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman. The full transcript is available here, but here are some of his comments regarding why his directorial debut focuses on the final hours of Oscar Grant:

By the time he had passed away, the video footage of him being shot was already on the Internet. It was already online; we were able to see it. And, I mean, the interesting thing about it was—was that, you know, it was taken with cellphone cameras and video cameras from that time, so it was grainy, it was pixelated. Like, all you could tell, that he was a black guy wearing a certain kind of clothes, with a certain group of friends, and he looked like he could have been any one of us. Like, he dressed like all of us, you know what I mean? His friends look like my friends.

You know, so it was—it was several things. It was horrifying. It was frustrating, you know, because these things—these things happen—these things happen so often. And it was very, very—it put a sense of anger in everyone, you know what I mean? Definitely a sense of anger in me. And I think that’s what happened when people went out to protest, you know what I mean? There were several peaceful protests, you know, some rioting—more peaceful protests than rioting, but the riots is what got reported more.

But for me, you know, I’ve seen these kind of things happen before, instances of police brutality and instances of urban violence, and people riot and rally. And I never saw — I saw it keep happening, you know, what I mean? Like, I know the protests and the riots would help raise awareness, but I felt that myself, as an artist and as a filmmaker, maybe I could do something that could help attack this issue at the root, you know, through my art, through my outlet. Art has always been an outlet for me to get out my frustrations and to voice things I like people to think about, you know, so I saw that as an opportunity for me to contribute, you know what I mean, to society. And I got into film to always make things that promote ideas of social change, you know what I mean? So, it was a—the idea to make the film was kind of birthed there.

Goodman also interviewed Marc Silver, director of the festival’s World Cinema Documentary Cinematography Award winner Who is Dayani Crystal?, a documentary produced by and featuring Gael García Bernal that attempts to trace the steps of a Honduran immigrant who dies in the northern Mexican state of Sonora. The film was also picked up during the festival by Mundial, an international distributor funded by IM Global and Canana, the latter of which is based out of Latin America.

Chilean director Sebastián Silva won his second award at the festival this year, taking the World Cinema Dramatic Directing prize for his work on the ugly-American comedy Crystal Fairy, which places Michael Cera’s thrill-seeking traveler in Chile and lets his plans unravel.

Vulture has the full list of winners here.

  • SuperHyugaYoshichan

    A wonderfully typed article, however, there is an embbedding that got missed in the second to last paragraph. Thank you, Racailicious! :)