A dramatic film portraying the last day of Oscar Grant’s life won top honors at the Sundance Film Festival. Directed by first-time filmmaker, 26-year-old Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale tells the story of Oscar Grant, the 22-year-old Bay Area resident who was shot dead by a transit police officer in Oakland New Year’s Day 2009. The film begins with real cellphone footage of the police shooting, then dramatically retells the last hours of Grant’s life.
Fruitvale, which won both the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for dramatic film as well as the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at Sundance. Ryan Coogler accepted the prizes at an award ceremony Saturday night.
At the end of the day, when I first wrote this project, first made this project, it was about humanity, about human beings and how we treat each other, how we treat the people that we love the most and how we treat the people that we don’t know. I mean, to get this award means that that had a profound impact on the audience that saw it, on the people that were responsible for putting it out. And this goes back to my home, to the Bay Area, where Oscar Grant lived, breathed, slept, loved, fought, had fun and survived for 22 years. I take this award home, and I hope that y’all take this award home with you guys, as well. And I can’t wait to see y’all after this is all said and done, when I’m a little more articulate and not so emotional.
Fruitvale accomplished what some are saying hasn’t been done in a generation, as The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy explained:
Fruitvale, which dramatizes the short life and tragic death of Oscar Grant in a police shooting in 2009, represents one of those fabled Sundance success stories the likes of which date back at least to 1989 and Steven Soderbergh with sex, lies & videotape, that of a young filmmaker no one’s ever heard of one day who is the toast of the town the next.
Not to be lost within the titans who also starred in Fruitvale — Octavia Spencer and Forrest Whitaker, both of whom had brief but powerful performances — actor Michael B. Jordan officially arrives as a bona-fide actor to be reckoned with in an industry that seems to recycle the same actors.
Shadow and Act’s Zeba Blay said Jordan’s portrayal of Oscar Grant allowed the audience to feel empathy for him without making Grant unrealistically an angel:
The quiet beauty of the role is that he isn’t perfect — at the top of the film Oscar has only just ended his weed-selling; a flashback later in the film reveals his mother visiting him in prison for an undivulged crime. Still, Coogler takes care to frame his screenplay, no matter Grant’s passed mistakes, as ultimately the story of an extremely decent person.
Great news indeed …