"It's a film about justice and injustice," said Harvey Weinstein, introducing Fruitvale Station, a debut film by Ryan Coogler who wrote and directed, based on a true story in San Francisco. That story is unfortunately echoed in a trial we are all watching on television, seeking resolution for the death of Trayvon Martin. In the 2009 case, a BART policeman shot Oscar Grant who was out celebrating New Year's Eve with friends in Oakland, at the Fruitvale Station train platform. With a screenplay masterfully leading up to this fate, the events evolve like a thriller, and even though you know scene by well-constructed scene how it will end, you still root for Oscar, hoping the violence will never come.
Addressing the premiere crowd at MoMA, Ryan Coogler said he had to make this film when the news ripped apart his community. After the screening, we were still so immersed, we were happy to see Michael B. Jordan alive. The talented Jordan shows Oscar's kindness, innocence and flaws in a deft performance; Octavia Spencer plays his mom, and Melonie Diaz his girlfriend. The women around Oscar, including his grandma Bonnie who helps a customer at the market make a fish fry are all excellent. Spencer is also executive producer who brought in some funding when needed. Viewers will note The Help author, Kathryn Stockett has a special credit.
Also present at the premiere were Candice Bergen, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jeremy Scahill and Richard Rowley of Dirty Wars, another must-see film. Representing the family of Oscar Grant, the heads of the Oscar Grant Foundation, Cephus "Uncle Bobby" Johnson and his wife Sis Beatrice X Johnson, were particularly pleased that the New York movie premiere is the anniversary of the verdict, when the officer who killed Oscar was convicted, noting it was the first ever such an incident was brought to justice, however minimal. Johannes Mehserle served only 11 months of a two-year sentence.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.