Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fruitvale Movie released during a time of extreme unrest

Food for thought: When a "Hearts & Minds" psy-op begins, funny coincidences tend to happen.

According to Box Office Mojo report on the Weinstein Studio, Fruitvale Station was shown at only seven theaters during its opening week. The studio's movies being shown at the most theaters were Scary Movie 5, Escape from Planet Earth and Django Unchained, which were viewed in over 3,000 theaters each.
Title / Studio / weekend gross / theaters / average/ wks shown
Fruitvale Station / Wein. / $386,291 / 7 / $55,184 /  1
* Where were the 7 theaters in relations to political hotspots?
* Where were the Trayvon protests at?

About the Director []:
Ryan Coogler is a 26-year-old filmmaker from the Bay Area and a graduate of the MFA program at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. While at USC, Coogler made several short films, including Locks, Gap, and Fig, which won the 2011 HBO Short Film Award at the American Black Film Festival. His feature script for Fruitvale was selected for the 2012 Sundance Screenwriters Lab. Coogler also works as a counselor at the juvenile hall in San Francisco.

2013-07-11 "In 'Fruitvale Station,' parallels to Trayvon Martin"
by Steven Zeitchik from "Los Angeles Times" [,0,7376457.story]:
NEW YORK -- Unlike their TV counterparts, scripted movies that try to parallel news events, especially crime-based ones, tend to fall flat. If a film in this vein is done well it can still seem like little more than a network procedural. If it’s done badly it can seem phony or forced. We have documentaries for this sort of thing.
But that rule doesn't apply to “Fruitvale Station,” the Sundance Film Festival phenomenon that arrives in theaters on Friday (after a TV campaign that, oddly, plays more to the universal idea of second chances than to the story that became a Civil Rights cause célèbre.)
Written and directed by the now-27-year-old wunderkind Ryan Coogler, “Fruitvale” tells of the last day in the life of the all-too-real Oscar Grant, the 22-year-old Oakland man who on New Year’s 2009 was killed at the hand of a BART police officer despite being unarmed and having committed no crime. As you may recall, the film won both top jury and audience prizes at Sundance and made a filmmaking star out of Coogler, while also thrusting its young and previously little-known actors, Michael B. Jordan and Melonie Diaz, into the limelight.
I watched the movie for the second time at the New York premiere on Monday, with an audience of tastemakers as well as filmmaker friends and family. Some of the early criticisms — that Coogler pushes some easy emotional buttons — were apparent, but for the most part the movie packed the same punch as it did when I joined the tissue-pulling Sundance crowds back in January. (Interestingly, when my colleague Amy Kaufman asked Jordan about the fact that this film is based on real events but scripted, he replied, "Somebody asked me how would you feel if this movie was done as a documentary. [And] I don’t think it would reach the masses as much as it has. It’s too real. They’re getting something that they don’t realize they’re getting. Hide the medicine in the food.")
As depicted in the film, Grant was complicated and at times irresponsible, but ultimately a sweet and caring person who, like many his age, had made some mistakes but was beginning to figure it all out. He deserved a chance to see what he could do with his growing maturity. His tragic fate was a racial injustice, to be sure, but it was also a sin against the beautiful idea that a young person has the freedom to learn from their mistakes.
The feeling in the theater Monday was a charged one, and understandably so. There’s something about the easygoing rhythms of a man going about his day — playing with his young daughter, trying to win back a job — colliding with the harsh reality of violent injustice that strikes at the soul. (Real-life footage tacked on from a 2013 memorial-protest only enhances the effect.)
But the movie also resonated for a different reason. As the film hits theaters, the Trayvon Martin case is continuing to play out on cable news. Like so many of us, I’m following only the outlines of the trial of George Zimmerman. I haven't gotten to know the day-to-day life of Martin the way one gets to know Grant in this film. And the circumstances of the Martin shooting are of course in some key ways different from that of the Grant shooting, a subject for another post.
But the similarities in the overall circumstances are unmistakable, and when I flipped on CNN the day after the screening, I couldn’t help hearing in Martin’s story pieces of Grant’s tale — a very public civil rights case overlaying the private lives of a family dealing with the inexplicable loss of a young loved one.
The Weinstein Co., which is releasing “Fruitvale,” isn’t going out of its way to emphasize the connection in its marketing — betting, probably correctly, that it could give the film an eat-your-vegetables feel. But such parallels are unavoidable. Harvey Weinstein, never one to shy away in his speech from how one of his movies sheds light on a news event, noted as much at the premiere. “With the trial going on,” he said, alluding presumably to the Martin case, “this movie is so important. It’s about justice and injustice.”
Audiences who come out to see the film will ride down a kind of two-way street of fact-based moviegoing. "Fruitvale" might help them understand the Martin case. Or the Martin case might make them yearn to learn more about the events described in "Fruitvale." After all, Coogler's film is the kind that gnaws at your soul, even if it’s not ripped from the headlines.

2013-07-12 "'Fruitvale Station' opens at Bay Area theaters"
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The film "Fruitvale Station" depicting the last 24 hours of the life of Oscar Grant III is opening at three Bay Area theaters Friday as part of a limited release.
The film is about Hayward resident Grant, 22, who was fatally shot on Oakland's Fruitvale BART station platform on New Years Day 2009 by former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle.
Screenings began today at the California Theatre in Berkeley, the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland and San Francisco's AMC Metreon 16.
[ ... ]
The movie, written and directed by Bay Area native Ryan Coogler, focuses on the day before the shooting and does not delve into the police response, murder trial and Bay Area protests that followed the death of Grant, who was unarmed. The opening night premiere was held at the Grand Lake Theater last month with the movie's leading actors, producers, director and the Grant family attending.
Michael B. Jordan portrays Grant, while Octavia Spencer plays Grant's mother, Wanda. Forest Whitaker produced the film. The Oscar Grant Foundation, an organization founded by Grant's uncle Cephus Johnson, has been keeping supporters updated on the film and tracking its reception as it is released at more venues. "Fruitvale Station," which was filmed in Oakland and other parts of the Bay Area, earned top marks at this year's Sundance Film Festival and was acquired afterward by The Weinstein Company.

2013-07-12 "Oscar Grant Movie ‘Fruitvale Station’ Premieres To Sellout Crowds"
Movie theaters in Oakland added extra screenings Friday to accommodate huge crowds that wanted to see “Fruitvale Station,” a new film about the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant by a BART police officer.
As she waited in line, moviegoer Deidre Isles reflected on the toll Grant’s killing took on her as a BART rider, even though she never knew Grant.
“As I was passing Fruitvale Station, I would get chills looking at the platform,” she said, adding she hopes the film will heighten awareness of racial profiling and police abuse.
It was a packed house at Oakland's Grand Lake Theater on Thursday (June 20, 2013) night during a private screening of the film "Fruitvale Station," a dramatization of the last 24 hours of the life of Oscar Grant III.
We’re racially profiled, and there needs to be some type of change to prevent that from happening in the future,” she said.
Grant, 22, was unarmed when he was fatally shot by Officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale BART station in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009. Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2010 and was released from prison in 2011.
Lines at the Grand Lake Theater were long all day Friday, and several extra evening showings were scheduled after the first three evening screenings were sold out.
BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey watched the film with several of his command staff, and said it fulfilled the vision filmmaker Ryan Coogler outlined when he met with Rainey.
"He wanted to humanize Oscar Grant. The movie that he made, his vision is not to inflame. It’s to heal,” he said.
“I think we all owe it to the Grant family and ourselves to learn from what happened,” Rainey said.
The slaying sparked community outrage for months, and led to significant changes in how BART manages and trains its police force. Rainey stressed that BART’s police department is vastly different than it was in 2009.
“The Oscar Grant-Johannes Mehserle incident is the catalyst,” he said.

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