Before he even began to film the drama Fruitvale Station, Ryan Coogler was personally invested in the story. The San Francisco-born, African American director witnessed days of turmoil after the murder of Oscar Grant III, another African American, by transit police in nearby Oakland, California. Ryan Coogler says the film tells the story of what could be any young black man in America today.
The film includes real footage taken of Oscar Grant's deadly shooting on a train platform by transit police in Oakland, New Year's Day, 2009.
On New Years’ Eve, Oscar made resolutions. He decided to lead a lawful life, be loyal to his girlfriend, be a better father and a better son, a tall order after his incarceration.
Coogler humanizes Oscar by reconstructing his interactions with family and friends in the last 24 hours of his life.
“When young people like Oscar die in the streets, people don’t think about the fact that this guy was 22, he had a life and he had people he meant the world to," he said.
Coogler says the film is personal to him because what happened to Oscar could have happened to him, his brothers, his friends. But he adds, Oscar’s portrayal is not meant to polarize but to offer a human perspective on a young black man’s life.
He also hopes his film will shed light on racial profiling and how African American males are especially vulnerable.
“So moms give advice in situations: don’t mess with the police, don’t make sudden moves, don’t talk to strangers because they’ll kill you, they'll killl you out of fear or because they thought you had a gun or because you were up to something that you weren't," he said.
Fruitvale Station is powerful, with a strong cast featuring Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer.