It’s been a week since I saw Fruitvale Station and after I saw it I remember saying “I thought I was ready… I thought wrong.” Despite this, I loved this film. I was surprised that there were a few people in the theatre that didn’t know the story of Oscar Grant, a man who was needlessly shot by a BART police officer after an altercation took place on a train coming from San Francisco during the early morning hours on New Year’s Day. The film tells the story from the shooting at the beginning and then highlights the series of events leading to the killing. While there’s no clear parallel to the Trayvon Martin shooting, the frustration, rage, and fear were all too familiar.
What was so important about this film is that it delves into the story of Oscar Grant, a man struggling to find a path that would lead him to a more stable place in life. In the film we are shown a man who clearly cares for his family and is looking forward to a new year and a fresh start. Far from one dimensional, Oscar Grant had flaws; many people would label him a a thug, a hustler, a player and in doing so they can easily dismiss him and force him into a pre-conceived compartmentalized box that lies far from their reality. What the director of Fruitvale Station masterfully portrays is a man who deeply cares for his mom, his girlfriend and daughter, is vulnerable, and is afraid to be alone.
The best parts of the film were the unexpected moments of shared experiences between people of disparate backgrounds; that typifies what I love about Oakland (I lived there for 5 years). Sharing New Year’s recipes in a grocery store and a countdown party on BART train were moments where all walks of life forget their differences and fully live in the moment.
I found it very interesting to find a distinct group of writers who attempt to distill this film into a “victimization cinema” narrative, and I can’t help but think that they’ve horribly missed the point. Ignorance is not bliss.
The sobering reality behind Fruitvale Station is that it reveals a glimpse into how our brains process the millions of data points that lead to the decisions we make. How does someone like Oscar Grant get shot in that split moment when a man pulls a gun, takes the safety off and somehow mistakes it for a taser? How does someone like George Zimmerman shoot a child, is exonerated and then chooses to continue to carry a concealed weapon? Why are our black children viewed as “walking suspects”?
This is a movie that leaves you with more questions than answers, but they are important questions to confront.