At the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, writer/director Ryan Coogler’s FRUITVALE STATION won the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film. It is produced by Forest Whitaker and Octavia Spencer (co-executive producer) who also stars as Wanda, mother of Oscar Grant on whose life this film is based on. The film conveys a tragedy on New Year’s Day 2009 that some may say could have been avoidable, if this or if that were not done, but regardless of the varied public opinion, this scenario was deadly.
Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) was a 22-year-old Bay Area resident with a girlfriend, Sophina (Melonie Diaz) and their four year-old daughter, Tatiana (Ariana Neal). These three actors convey a realistic family unit living month to month on what appears to be limited income from their jobs at local stores. Oscar’s mother, Wanda has tried to be supportive despite the times he has made choices with consequences that result in being away from home. Award winning actress Spencer does an excellent job of portraying the loving mother, but yet one who does not condone his behavior and choices.
Despite whatever resolutions Oscar thinks about on December 31, 2008, things take a turn for the worse after celebrating his mother’s birthday that evening. His and Sophina’s choice to take the Bay Area train into town with friends (at Wanda’s suggestion instead of driving after partying) leads to good and bad encounters along the way.
It is a good drama, but it is sadly based on true events in this young man’s life. He was unarmed and the mistakes made that night are some he pays with his life. It is hard to watch the film and remain unmoved by the events, especially Spencer’s scene in the hospital. Some viewers may choose to opt out of seeing this, but on the other hand, it is a reminder of tragedies like this that happen all too often. Some of them have larger headlines than others.
Bear in mind that this film is rated R and is in theaters in Austin and San Antonio.