Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

With Zimmerman Case, 'Fruitvale Station' Is Unexpectedly Timely

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

With Zimmerman Case, 'Fruitvale Station' Is Unexpectedly Timely

Article excerpt

The timing couldn't be eerier or, in a way, more apt.

"Fruitvale Station," a film that focuses on events leading up to the tragic killing of a young black man, opens Friday in St. Louis. Directed by Ryan Coogler in his feature debut, the poignant drama earned raves at the most recent Sundance and Cannes film festivals and has been hailed as a breakthrough for its star, Michael B. Jordan (television's "Friday Night Lights").

The fact-based "Fruitvale Station" tells the story of Oscar Grant III, a San Francisco Bay Area resident who lost his life in a Jan. 1, 2009, subway confrontation with police. The film is likely to remind viewers of the recently concluded murder trial of George Zimmerman, who was found not guilty on all charges, and the outraged reaction to that verdict.

In an interview conducted with Coogler before the verdict was reached, he said that the circumstances surrounding 17-year-old Trayvon Martin whom Zimmerman fatally shot in Sanford, Fla., last year and Grant, who was 22 at the time of his death, were indeed similar.

But the differences, he added, shouldn't be overlooked. Such as the fact that Grant's death was witnessed by subway riders and recorded on cellphones.

"With Trayvon, it was basically somebody's word against nobody else's," Coogler said. "If somebody had been there to record what happened to Trayvon, it would obviously have been a different situation. And the guy who killed Trayvon wasn't a law enforcement officer."

Grant was shot on a subway platform in Oakland, Calif., after a melee on a train, by a white transit police officer who later claimed that he mistook his service revolver for his stun gun. The officer was released from prison after serving only 11 months of a two-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter.

The killing of Grant was of particular interest to Coogler because he lives in the Bay Area ("I was right here when it happened") and considers the region "a very interesting place, a very special place, that's not often represented" on film.

"Often, when you have an affinity to a location and know it intimately, it adds to the storytelling quality," he said. …

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