The new film Fruitvale Station tells the true story of Oscar Grant, a young man from Oakland California who was shot and killed on the subway platform of a BART train while on his way home from a party New Year's Eve. The event was captured by numerous bystanders on cellphone videos and mobile devices and caused an uproar after onlookers realized the young man was unarmed when shot by police. In lieu of the recent verdict in the killing of Trayvon Martin and the public outcry that's ensued, the timing of the film's release seems almost eerie.
I sat down with first-time director Ryan Coogler, who wrote and directed the film in an attempt to process his own thoughts and feelings surrounding the shooting, the riots, and the injustices in a productive manner. There is much to be said about funneling the negative emotions currently on the rise, into positive forms of expression, a feat Coogler seems to have mastered. This film has already received critical acclaim as a stand out at this year's Sundance Film Festival, and the story is not only essential viewing, it is entertaining and solemnly beautiful as well.
Many, including myself, currently struggle to reconcile feelings of anger, sadness, powerless and more with a conviction to act in a constructive manner. While suggestions of what to do with that anger and sadness have been slim. I would like to offer the following. Octavia Spencer, a member of the cast of Fruitvale Station, tweeted today:
Stop saying the system needs 2 change and JUST CHANGE IT, ppl. YOUR vote matters.Midterm elections! Show up for TrayvonMartin & OscarGrant
— octavia spencer (@octaviaspencer) July 14, 2013
We must mourn the unnecessary & unjust death of a child, but to honor him we must rededicate ourselves to the very ideals that were violated
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) July 14, 2013
Oscar Grant's offering of a film, in lieu of destructive hateful behavior that can only compound the negativity surrounding this incident, could be just the medicine we need to begin to heal ourselves from the most recent tragic events.
No, we cannot reverse a verdict, but we can take positive action in response. I suggest we begin with the following:
Support a film that people should see. Art can heal after all. Take someone you love and allow the story of another young man whose life was taken far too soon, to be told, remembered and honored. Support a young black filmmaker, who took an awful tragedy and used it to create art, express his dissatisfaction with the system, support the family left behind and create jobs and opportunities for many others in response. That's something you can do. An offering of good in the place of something bad has to make the world a better place. And I believe it will make a difference.
Finally, if that's not enough, the NAACP has circulated a petition urging the Department of Justice to file federal charges, including civil rights charges, against George Zimmerman. If you would like to sign the petition I am including a link.
My interviews with Ryan Coogler and the cast of Fruitvale Station are also below. Enjoy them, take care of each other, and walk through this world with kindness.
Fruitvale Station is in limited theaters now and opens nationwide July 26th.