A Look at Police Violence & Race in Ryan Coogler’s ‘Fruitvale Station’

Oscar Grant was shot by a policeman at Fruitvale Station in Oakland just after midnight on January 1st, 2009. He was unarmed and had not been charged with any form of misconduct. Grant was shot in the back by an officer who later had his charges reduced because he explained that he mistook his gun for his taser in the heat of the moment. On screen, the events of Oscar’s last day of life play out like many other tragedies in that we’re guided through the softest events, pleasures, and joy alongside the hardship of the living before that sadness sets in. Oscar lost his job because he was late a lot. He’s irresponsible, but clearly underprivileged ok many ways, causing him to consider selling dope. He’s immature, but how can you reasonably grow up when you’ve got no money and no backup? Magic? Time? Everyone needs a hand, especially parents, and Oscar Grant was a father. A young girl misses him every day.

Filmmaker Ryan Coogler did his utmost to provide contrasting visions of Grant, to complicate him, as viewers imagine they themselves are deep down: unsure, afraid to be without those we love, proud, insecure, angry- so we understand. By the time Oscar is shot, he’s been portrayed as a pedlar of ideas; the idea we can all feel entitled, regardless of out station in life. We shout, rightfully, when we are wronged. We miss our children when we leave them. They tell us to stay because they love us, because they can’t imagine us gone: if we leave, we might not come back, because we are adults. Oscar helps people without any struggle: accounts of a pregnant couple, his friends when there’s a fight, his girlfriend when she’s sad. In these visions, he is kind but impatient for change and prosperity. With one gunshot placed properly to kill, his hopes and ideas are finalized into nothingness, because that is what death does. Such is the story of Oscar Grant as it has been told to us by Ryan Coogles, through a superbly sensitive, yet fiery portrayal by actor Michael B. Jordan.

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