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Fruitvale Station
★★★★☆
First run Theater cinema

Fruitvale Station is the début feature of Ryan Coogler. Coogler was a USC grad student studying film in 2009 when 22 year-old Oscar Grant III was shot and killed New Year’s morning on the BART train platform in Oakland, California. Not wanting Grant to be just another headline about a young black man shot by a white cop, Coogler devised a film about the last day of Grant’s life and the events which lead up to the shooting. The result is a thoughtful and restrained slice-of-life portrayal, able to show many sides of Grant’s personality: loving husband, father, son and brother, former petty criminal and prison inmate, a young man struggling to hold a job and get his life on the right track. The film feels authentic, human and free of directorial commentary. Coogler’s intention is simply to show us the life that was ended early that New Year’s morning and he knows there is no need to present it as an extraordinary life. On the contrary, it is in the very ordinariness of Grant’s last day that we can find so much to empathize with. 

After seeing Coogler’s movie I thought a lot about Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, a highly stylized, allegorical film that still feels relevant and contemporary more than two decades after it was made. These two movies are at opposite ends of the cinematic spectrum in terms of their directorial approach, but they both open up a world that is far too often obscured by both political sensationalism and journalistic neglect. While I tend to favor grand works of fiction sparked by real events over small dramatizations of the actual events themselves, a picture like Fruitvale Station demonstrates the value of the simple, pure, straightforward exploration of humanity that film can accomplish better than any other medium. 

Directed by Ryan Coogler
Produced by Forest Whitaker and Nina Yang Bongiovi

Written by Ryan Coogler

With: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray, Ahna O'Reilly, Ariana Neal, Keenan Coogler, Trestin George, Joey Oglesby, Michael James, Marjorie Shears, and Caroline Lesley

Cinematography: Rachel Morrison
Editing: Claudia Castello and Michael P. Shawver
Music: Ludwig Göransson

Runtime: 85 min
Release Date: 26 July 2013
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
Color