“How a Grieving Family Saved A Troubled City with A Martyr”
The year 2009 began with a tragedy at an Oakland BART station. Shortly after 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day, BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed 22-year-old Oscar Grant II, of Hayward, on the platform of the Fruitvale station after responding to reports of a fight on a train.
“Make no mistake about it Oscar Grant was Murdered, Executed by a BART cop!” That was the echoing sentiment boiling up from among the justifiably angry, restless community of Oakland and the surrounding communities that spread world wide as video of Oscar Grants execution was blared over and over on television screens all around the world. It had become the quintessential poster for the ultimate example of Police misconduct and abuse- a lawless execution as the Black victim lay face-down on the ground, hands behind his back, shot, then handcuffed as he dies- all caught on cameras for the world to see!
Also caught on camera for the world to see was the public reaction to the execution that led to violent protests, as the public “showed their outrage” with the costly destruction of property to areas around town.
The gunman police officer was allowed to go free, traveled outside the state of California until he was charged with murder and appended in Nevada after National public protest forced the District Attorney to file criminal charges. His attorney has argued he meant to fire his Taser gun when he shot and killed Grant.
In the early hours of Jan. 1, 2009, Oscar Grant III, unarmed and lying face down on a subway platform in Oakland, Calif., was shot in the back by a white Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer. The incident, captured on video by onlookers, incited protest, unrest and arguments similar to those that would swirl around the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida a few years later. The deaths of these and other African-American young men (Mr. Grant was 22) touch some of the rawest nerves in the body politic and raise thorny and apparently intractable issues of law and order, violence and race.
Fruitvale Station, Michael B. Jordan and Ariana Neal play father and daughter in this debut feature by Ryan Coogler, which opens on Friday in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Mr. Jordan plays Oscar Grant, who was killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer.
Those matters are hardly absent from “Fruitvale Station,” Ryan Coogler’s powerful and sensitive debut feature, which imaginatively reconstructs the last 24 or so hours of Oscar Grant’s life, flashing back from a horrifying snippet of actual cellphone video of the hectic moments before the shooting. But Mr. Coogler, a 27-year-old Bay Area native who went to film school at the University of Southern California, examines his subject with a steady, objective eye and tells his story in the key of wise heartbreak rather than blind rage. It is not that the movie is apolitical or disengaged from the painful, public implications of Mr. Grant’s fate. But everything it has to say about class, masculinity and the tricky relations among different kinds of people in a proudly diverse and liberal metropolis is embedded in details of character and place.