Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) and his daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal) share a moment in “Fruitvale Station.” Image via nyfcc.com.
Fruitvale Station reminds us that the story of Oscar Grant is not over. And the world seemingly took a cue from that on Wednesday, when a federal court rejected his killer’s appeal, enabling his father to continue to seek justice in his name.
The man who shot Grant dead early on New Year’s Day 2009, former transit officer Johannes Mehserle, doesn’t say anything in writer/director Ryan Coogler’s account of the last hours of Grant’s life, a choice that not only allows Grant (Michael B. Jordan) and his loved ones more time to be seen and heard, but defines Mehserle as less character than calamity – a clumsy, confused-looking thing that happens. Both Grant and Mehserle are introduced from afar in the film’s opening seconds before shifting focus to follow Grant (sometimes, literally, from behind), pointing the viewer toward the same destination. But knowing what’s coming from a dramatic standpoint doesn’t diminish the visual impact. Continue reading →
This is the true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident 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, whose birthday falls on New Year’s Eve, being a better partner to his girlfriend, who he hasn’t been completely honest with as of late, and being a better father to T, their beautiful 4 year old daughter. He starts out well, but as the day goes on, he realizes that change is not going to come easy. He crosses paths with friends, family, and strangers, each exchange showing us that there is much more to Oscar than meets the eye. But it would be his final encounter of the day, with police officers at the Fruitvale BART station that would shake the Bay Area to its very core, and cause the entire nation to be witnesses to the story of Oscar Grant. IMDB
“It’s electric. It’s like March Madness. It’s that time of year where everyone’s just in it, talking about movies.
“I don’t want to be that ignorant American who comes over here and expects everyone to love it: ‘Oh, you got to love it because it’s hot over there. I want people to be excited about it because it really affects them.”
The trailer above offers a glimpse into not just the events leading up to Grant’s death, but the world he was trying to rebuild with himself, his mother (Octavia Spencer), his partner Sophina (Melonie Diaz) and their daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal). One thing that did strike me from the footage so far: we’re going to get at least some interpretation of how the shooting was captured on video by witnesses, and the police response.
Fruitvale opens on July 26, which places it in a relatively slow week in the middle of summer blockbuster season. The only “major” film opening that week appears to be Hugh Jackman’s The Wolverine.According to Movie Insider, the other films of note debuting are the Cate Blanchett/Alec Baldwin/Louis C.K. project Blue Jasmine and Blackfish, a documentary that uses the story of a killer whale responsible for the deaths of three trainers to shed light on how orcas are treated in captivity.
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. Continue reading →
R.I.P. Robert F. Chew: Just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of Mr. Chew, best known for playing Proposition Joe on The Wire. But in the wake of his passing, his work off-camera training young actors in Baltimore is also coming to light:
Born in Baltimore, Mr. Chew graduated from Patterson High School and attended Morgan State University where he sang in the school’s world-renown choir. He was working full time in Baltimore area theater since the early 1980s. He continued to teach in the Arena Players Youth Theatre after “The Wire” ended production here in 2007.
“He was a triple threat,” said Catherine Orange, director of Baltimore’s Arena Players youth theater. “He could act, he could dance and he could sing. He was an extraordinary teacher and director for us. He believed in our kids and was a task master.”
In 2006, Mr. Chew helped 22 of his students land parts in Simon’s landmark series.
“Whenever I had to dig deep and find kids who not only had the talent but the reality and the belief, kids who didn’t look like the ones in a Jell-O commercial, I called Robert,” Moran said Friday.
He was a teacher who worked really hard to give kids growing up in the inner city exposure to the arts, which no an easy task, especially when you consider that art is always first on the chopping block when people criticize the school system and insist we need to trim the budget to get rid of “waste.”
The deaths of Emmett Till, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin counter the narrative that all human life is valuable.
As the news of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin’s murder floods the airwaves I sit, familiarly reflective and saddened by the loss of yet another Black life at the hands of a sanctimonious racist. But like many of you, I know that this experience is not an isolated one. Largely, the lives of young Black men have never held great value in this country. From birth to untimely death, they’ve been treated as mules for labor, obvious scapegoats, easy targets and disposable–at no consequence to the disposer.
We’ve watched as the media and policy makers have heavily overlooked the outright assassinations of countless Black boys and men with little to no significance placed on the value of their lives or the racial implications of why they were murdered.
But in the wake of Mr. Hill’s death, the BART police department is once again facing disapproval, similar to what it endured after Johannes Mehserle shot Oscar Grant III in the back at the Fruitvale station in Oakland in 2009. That case touched off riots and looting last year after Mr. Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Mr. Mehserle was released from jail last month after serving 11 months of a two-year sentence.
BART has not released the names of the two officers who confronted Mr. Hill. But one of the officers was not carrying a Taser, officials said. Neither officer (one is a six-year veteran, the other has been on the force for 18 months) had received crisis-intervention training.
Asked if the officers were adequately prepared for the confrontation, Chief Rainey said, “Absolutely.” But critics said Mr. Hill’s death was a direct result of the agency’s slowness in making changes after the 2009 shooting.
“There’s been a two-year struggle to reform BART,” said Anne Weills, an Oakland lawyer who represents victims of police brutality. “They’ve made no effort to open themselves up to the public, to hire and screen people or to train people to adequately deal with these situations.”
BART officers have shot and killed six people since the agency was founded in 1972; three of the shootings occurred during the past three years. The police force for Atlanta’s transit system, which employs 321 officers, has had two in the last three years; the New York Police Department’s transit bureau, with 2,400 officers, has not had a fatal officer-involved shooting in at least 10 years.