How do you make a dramatic feature film dramatic when everyone knows the ending already?
Ryan Coogler had a brilliant idea: show them the beginning. Few people knew that part of the story.
Coogler’s film, Fruitvale Station, does in fact start with the end: the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant by a transit police officer on the subway platform in Oakland. The very first scene is the video taken by Tommy Cross which you can watch below.
Then Coogler takes us back and chronicles the final days of Grant’s life. The victim was far from perfect – he’d been to prison, he’d cheated on his girlfriend, the mother of his daughter, he was fired for being late to work. But he was trying. He wanted to stop dealing drugs and be a better father. That was the intent of the film, Coogler says, to humanize this young black man from Oakland, to make him something other than a statistic.
It’s a personal cause for the new filmmaker. Being a young African American from Oakland, he realizes that easily could have been him on the BART station platform. He, too, had been in “Frisco” that night, New Year’s Eve going into 2009. To this day, Coogler still works at San Francisco Juvenile Hall. They may have been strangers, but there was an intimate connection between the filmmaker and his subject that you can almost feel.
Top that powerful storytelling with this strong cast featuring Michael B. Jordan (The Wire, Friday Night Lights), Octavia Spencer (The Help), and Melonie Diaz and what you have is a compelling channel to keep Oscar Grant’s spirit alive.