by Robert Earl Houston
It is very rare that you sit in a movie theater and hear people – both men and women – openly weep. Tonight we went to see “Fruitvale Station” which struck an extraordinary chord on the heels of the George Zimmerman verdict.
This movie written and directed by Ryan Coogler, a first-time filmmaker, is the true story of Oscar Grant, III (“The Wire’s” Michael B. Jordan) a 22 year old young man who was murdered by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day in 2009. Oscar was coming home from enjoying the New Year’s Eve celebration with his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz), (who he was considering marrying). Oscar’s mother is powerfully played by Octavia Spencer, who carries the weight of the screenplay on her face.
As the movie opens, the actual cell phone filming of his murder opens the movie and the remainder of the movie takes us back to Oscar’s last 36 hours of life. As the movie showed his murder by BART Police, there literally was not a dry eye in the house – from audience members – black and white.
This movie won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and should be required viewing for all young people. Oscar’s struggle with his past and his decision to make the new year a time for a new start.
I’ve read some of the reviews tonight, especially those from Geoff Berkshire of Variety and Scott Tobias of The Dissolve and it reinforces the fact that the so-called reviewing professionals may have been in too many dark theaters and miss what ordinary folk (such as myself) look for in a movie. This movie is not for entertainment alone – it’s for information, inspiration and it retells a story that many of us as African-Americans have heard too often – a loss of a young black man, with his whole life ahead of himself. This young man was not in the position that should have resulted in his death – but a police officer snuffed out the life of this young man, young father, and potential husband.
Sadly, many of us who wept in the theater wept knowing that our young men are in an era where many of them won’t see full adulthood. They won’t see marriage and family and life . . . because they have a greater chance of being mowed down – whether it’s because of police action or community patrolman action or even by someone who looks like themselves. It’s a sad reminder that young black men who make it to 25 should be celebrated, make it to 30 should be applauded, and make it to 40 should be honored in these critical times.
I encourage you to see this movie. When I left the theater I told my wife, “I felt like I’m leaving a funeral.” Profound movie.
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