May 24, 2015


Movies

Fateful trip

Senseless killing of Oscar Grant examined in docu-drama

This pertinent docu-drama, widely released about the same time George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, has one primary purpose.

It strives to give a face, a voice, and a human context to Oscar Grant, a young man cut down in his prime on New Year's Day 2009, inexplicably shot in the back by a cop at the titular Oakland train station.

Michael B. Jordan and Melonie Diaz star in Fruitvale, the story of the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland, Calif.

Michael B. Jordan and Melonie Diaz star in Fruitvale, the story of the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland, Calif.

From left, Michael James, Jordan, Trestin George and Thomas Wright are questioned by transit officers (Kevin Durand  and Alejandra Nolasco) immediately before the shooting.

From left, Michael James, Jordan, Trestin George and Thomas Wright are questioned by transit officers (Kevin Durand and Alejandra Nolasco) immediately before the shooting.

Oscar Grant is portrayed as a good father to his daughter Tatiana (Airana Neal).

Oscar Grant is portrayed as a good father to his daughter Tatiana (Airana Neal).

Grant was a young black man with a criminal past. Hence, even confronted with the cellphone video of the senseless shooting (the very footage that starts this film), some might tend to blame the victim for the crime in the same way Trayvon was posthumously prosecuted by Zimmerman's defence team.

As a corrective, writer-director Ryan Coogler, making his debut feature, strives to make Grant a three-dimensional figure, with the able assistance of actor Michael B. Jordan, who plays Grant as a young man valiantly trying to get through life, playing the hand he was dealt.

Coogler dramatizes the last day of Grant's life with a blend of fact and conjecture. We watch as he tries his best to be a good, present father to his daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal) and a considerate mate to his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz).

Perhaps even more importantly, he strives to prove his worth to his mother (Octavia Spencer), the woman who has seen him at his lowest point (in San Quentin, goaded into a fight with another inmate during visiting hours, the film's one flashback).

But it is not easy. He has recently lost his job for being late, and his efforts to get another chance come off as threatening. To make some money, he considers -- and decides against -- selling a bag of pot to a friend.

It all comes to a head on that fateful night when Oscar, at his mother's insistence, takes the train to New Year's Eve celebrations in San Francisco, with fateful consequences.

In the scenes where Grant is alone, we can assume Coogler is taking narrative liberties, especially in one where he tries to comfort a stray dog that has been hit by a car. Such scenes diminish an otherwise honest film with a little gratuitous foreshadowing.

The post-shooting scenes, by contrast, contain all the urgency and tragedy of the most powerful documentary as the immediate consequences of the shooting slowly spread to Grant's family and friends.

Taken on the whole, this is a worthy film, forcing serious consideration of Grant as a man, not as a statistic.

When a police officer shoots someone, we tend to try to comfort ourselves that the victim somehow brought it on himself. If nothing else, this film makes the salient point: Oscar Grant did not have it coming.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 23, 2013 D3

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Jessica B-U | @_jessbu

May 24 2:56 pm

There will be a wake in #Winnipeg Monday night for Garden Hill First Nation's Teresa Robinson. Calvary Temple, 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Winnipeg Free Press | @WinnipegNews

May 24 12:44 pm

Japan-Canada trade talks stalled wfp.to/RTS

Winnipeg Free Press | @WinnipegNews

May 24 12:36 pm

New law allows police to crack down on Sunday/holiday bike routes wfp.to/RTo

Jessica B-U | @_jessbu

May 24 11:17 am

Drivers caught driving more than one block on these streets could earn $92 tickets: police.

Jessica B-U | @_jessbu

May 24 11:16 am

There won't be barriers advertising "local traffic only" anymore. Up to drivers to spot the street signs at intersections.

Scroll down to load more

Top