Fruitvale Station is a 2013 American biographical drama film written and directed by Ryan Coogler. It is Coogler's first feature-length film and is based on the events leading to the death of Oscar Grant, a young man who was killed in 2009 by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale district station of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system in Oakland.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ryan Coogler|
|Written by||Ryan Coogler|
|Music by||Ludwig Göransson|
|Distributed by||The Weinstein Company|
|Box office||$17.4 million|
The film stars Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant with Kevin Durand and Chad Michael Murray playing the two BART police officers involved in Grant's death, although their names were changed for the film. Melonie Diaz, Ahna O'Reilly and Octavia Spencer also star.
Fruitvale Station debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival where it won the award for Best First Film. The film was released in theaters July 12, 2013.
The film depicts the story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old from Hayward, California, and his experiences on the last day of his life, before he was fatally shot by BART Police in the early morning hours of New Year's Day 2009. The movie begins with the actual footage of Oscar Grant and his friends being detained by the BART Police at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland on January 1, 2009, at 2:15 a.m. right before his murder.
The film shows Grant and his girlfriend Sophina arguing about Grant's recent infidelity. It later shows Grant unsuccessfully attempting to get his job back at the grocery store. He briefly considers selling some marijuana but in the end, decides to dump the stash. Grant later attends a birthday party for his mother, Wanda, and agrees to take the BART train to see fireworks and other New Year's festivities in San Francisco since she is worried about him driving.
On the return train, Katie, a customer at the grocery store where Grant used to work, recognizes Grant and calls out his name. This causes a former inmate during Grant's days in jail to notice Grant and a fight breaks out. The BART police respond to the scene. Grant is among the passengers the BART police attempt to arrest and while being restrained by officers Caruso and Ingram, he is shot in back by Ingram. He is rushed to the hospital, where he dies in surgery.
Title cards show that Grant's killing sparked a series of protests and riots across the city and that the incident was recorded by several witnesses, either by cell phone or video camera. The BART Police officers were fired and Ingram was later tried and found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, claiming he mistook his gun for his Taser, and served an 11-month sentence. There is also footage of a gathering of people celebrating Grant's life on New Year's Day 2013 with the real-life, older Tatiana (Grant's daughter) standing among them.
Ryan Coogler was a graduate student at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts when Grant was shot on January 1, 2009. Following this event, Coogler expressed his desire to make a film about Grant's last day, "I wanted the audience to get to know this guy, to get attached, so that when the situation that happens to him happens, it's not just like you read it in the paper, you know what I mean? When you know somebody as a human being, you know that life means something." He was able to meet John Burris, the attorney for the Grant family, through a mutual friend and worked closely with him to get information on the case. He also worked closely with the Grant family, after gaining their trust.
In January 2011, Forest Whitaker's production company was looking for new young filmmakers to mentor. Coogler met Head of Production, Nina Yang Bongiovi, and showed her his projects. Shortly after, he had a meeting with Whitaker, who decided to support Fruitvale. Coogler met with advisers of Sundance Screenwriters Lab. He developed the script with the help of Creative Advisors Tyger Williams, Jessie Nelson and Zach Sklar. The film received funding from the Feature Film Program (FFP) and the San Francisco Film Society.
Coogler had Michael B. Jordan in mind to play the role of Grant before writing the script. In April 2012, Jordan and Octavia Spencer joined the cast. Spencer also received a co-executive producer credit as she directly participated in funding the film and contacted investors when a deal was lost during the filming. Notable investors included Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, a bestselling novel adapted as a successful film, for which Spencer won an Oscar. In April 2012, Hannah Beachler signed on to serve as the film's production designer.
Fruitvale Station was shot in Oakland, California, for 20 days in July 2012. Scenes were shot at and around the Bay Area Rapid Transit platform where Grant was killed. BART agreed to let the crew film at the Fruitvale BART station for three four-hour nights. Most of the platform scenes were shot over the course of two nights (with another night dedicated to the sequences on the train that led up to the police confrontation). San Quentin State Prison served as a filming location for a flashback scene with prisoners featured as extras. The film was shot in Super 16 mm format using Arriflex 416 cameras and Zeiss Ultra 16 lenses.
The film includes actual amateur footage of the shooting. Coogler explained the decision: "That was something that I was initially very firmly against. I didn't want any real footage in the film. But you sometimes have to take a step back. Being from the Bay Area, I knew that footage like the back of my hand, but more people from around the world had no idea about this story. It made sense for them to see that footage and see what happened to Oscar, and I think it was a responsibility that we had to put that out there."
The musical score to Fruitvale Station was composed by Ludwig Göransson. Also a USC graduate, Göransson said of the scoring process: "Ryan and I talked a lot about how sound design was going to have a huge role in the movie and very early on I got sent the actual sound recordings of the Bart [sic] Train. I manipulated the train sound and made it almost feel like a dark ambient synth sound and I used it almost throughout the whole Bart platform scene. The other element in the score is lots of layered and manipulated guitars sounding almost like haunting pads." Coogler added: "One thing that we always wanted to be conscious of with the score, was to make sure that it always felt organic. A lot of the film would play without score, so Ludwig made sure that whenever we brought score in came out of sounds in the environment." A soundtrack album, Fruitvale Station: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, was released digitally on September 24, 2013 and on CD October 15, 2013 through Lakeshore Records.
|1.||"Mob Shit"||The Jacka, Cellski & Peezy||4:40|
|2.||"Rubber Band"||Mar Keyes, William Peoples & Noah Coogler||4:04|
|3.||"Won't Be Right"||The Jacka & Cellski||4:13|
|4.||"Hey Little Mama"||Mistah F.A.B, Johnny Ca$h & The Jacka||3:56|
|5.||"Intelligent"||Mar Keyes, William Peoples & Phillip Henderson||3:25|
|8.||"The Dog"||Ludwig Göransson||1:18|
|10.||"Picking Up T"||Ludwig Göransson||0:44|
|12.||"Love and Oprah"||Ludwig Göransson||0:36|
|13.||"Dinner Time"||Ludwig Göransson||1:38|
|14.||"Tatiana and Firecrackers"||Ludwig Göransson||1:13|
|16.||"Bart Station"||Ludwig Göransson||5:00|
|17.||"Who's That For?"||Ludwig Göransson||2:30|
|18.||"End Titles"||Ludwig Göransson||6:47|
|19.||"Fruitvale Suite"||Ludwig Göransson||7:53|
The Weinstein Company commissioned three murals to be painted in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco by well-known street artists Ron English, Lydia Emily and LNY, in anticipation of the film.
Some people questioned having a poster for the film in Fruitvale Station, but a BART spokeswoman said about this decision:
"There was no debate whether to allow Fruitvale Station [advertisements] on BART. None whatsoever. We really support Ryan. He's just an amazing person... I think that Ryan had said it was his intention to show his love for Oakland and the people of Oakland, and he really succeeded."
Promotional material used on the film's Facebook page and website referred to the controversial shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida, which was in the news at the same time as the film's release. This drew some criticism, with publicist Angie Meyer stating, "It's absolutely inappropriate and morally wrong to use a high profile case to create publicity and buzz around a movie release."
As part of its film promotion, the Weinstein Co. set up the "I am __" campaign to encourage people to share stories of overcoming acts of social injustice or mistreatment, and to upload photos or other artworks related to those experiences.
Fruitvale Station premiered on January 19, 2013 during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival where it was listed as Fruitvale before undergoing a title change. After premiering at Sundance, the film was at the center of a distribution bidding war. Rights for the film were ultimately acquired by The Weinstein Company for approximately US$2 million. In May 2013, Fruitvale Station appeared in the Un Certain Regard, an award section recognizing unique and innovative films, at the 66th Cannes Film Festival and won the award for Best First Film.
The Oakland premiere was held as a private screening at Grand Lake Theater on June 20, 2013. The film opened in select theaters on July 12. This opening took place about the same time as the Florida jury decided the verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for shooting Trayvon Martin.
The film grossed an estimated $127,445 on its first day and ended its first weekend of limited release with $377,285 from 7 theaters for a $53,898 per-theater-average. It is the third highest opening of the year for a film in limited release (behind Spring Breakers and The Place Beyond the Pines) and it is also one of the best openings for a Sundance festival top prize winner. A week after its debut, Fruitvale Station expanded to 35 theaters and garnered $742,272 for $21,832 per-screen average. The film opened nationwide on July 26 in more than 1000 locations. It ranked #10 at the box office, earning $4.59 million. The film has grossed $16,101,339 in the United States and $1,284,491 elsewhere, for a worldwide total of $17,385,830.
Fruitvale Station received critical acclaim. The film has a 94% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 8.1/10, based on 195 reviews. The critical consensus states: "Passionate and powerfully acted, Fruitvale Station serves as a celebration of life, a condemnation of death, and a triumph for star Michael B. Jordan." On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 85, based on 46 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". CinemaScore reported that audiences gave an "A" average grade.
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter called it "a compelling debut" and "a powerful dramatic feature film". He also praised the lead performances stating, "As Oscar, Jordan at moments gives off vibes of a very young Denzel Washington in the way he combines gentleness and toughness; he effortlessly draws the viewer in toward him. Diaz is vibrant as his patient and loyal girlfriend, while Spencer brings her gravitas to the proceedings as his stalwart mother."
In writing for The Village Voice, chief film critic Stephanie Zacharek called it "a restrained but forceful picture that captures some of the texture and detail of one human life" and praised first-time director Ryan Coogler, writing that he "dramatizes Oscar's last day by choosing not to dramatize it: The events unfold casually, without any particular scheme. And yet because we know how this story will end, there's a shivery, understated tension running beneath."
In his Sundance festival wrap-up, critic Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said of Fruitvale Station, "Made with assurance and quiet emotion, this unexpectedly devastating drama based on the real life 2009 shooting of an unarmed young black man at an Oakland Fruitvale Station of BART (San Francisco Bay Area Transit Fruitvale Station) impressed everyone as the work of an exceptional filmmaker." 
In a more mixed review, Geoff Berkshire of Variety called it "a well-intentioned attempt to put a human face on the tragic headlines surrounding Oscar Grant." Though he praised Michael B. Jordan's performance, he critiqued the "relentlessly positive portrayal" of the film's subject: "Best viewed as an ode to victim's rights, Fruitvale forgoes nuanced drama for heart-tugging, head-shaking and rabble-rousing."
In his negative New York Post review and subsequent opinion piece in Forbes, Kyle Smith claimed that Coogler omits key information, while fabricating other scenes, in order to manipulate viewers into a distorted impression of what happened.
The film appeared on several critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2013:
- 2nd – Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com
- 3rd – Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
- 3rd – Mara Reinstein, Us Weekly
- 4th – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
- 4th – Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
- 5th – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
- 8th – Lisa Schwarzbaum, BBC
- 8th – Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News
- 9th – Ann Hornaday The Washington Post
- 9th – Randy Myers, San Jose Mercury News
- 9th – Ann Hornaday, Washington Post
- 9th – Anne Thompson, Indiewire
- 9th – Sasha Stone, Awards Daily
- No rank – Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal
- No rank – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
- No rank – Claudia Puig, USA Today
- No rank – Carrie Rickey
- No rank – Jonathan Rosenbaum
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipients and nominees||Result|
|AACTA Awards||January 10, 2014||Best International Supporting Actress||Octavia Spencer||Nominated|
|African-American Film Critics Association||December 13, 2013||Best Independent Film||Fruitvale Station||Won|
|American Film Institute||January 10, 2014||Top Ten Films of the Year||Fruitvale Station||Won|
|Austin Film Critics Association||December 17, 2013||Best First Film||Ryan Coogler||Won|
|Black Reel Awards||February 13, 2014||Outstanding Motion Picture||Fruitvale Station / Nina Yang Bonogivoi and Forest Whitaker||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actor||Michael B. Jordan||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Actress||Melonie Diaz||Nominated|
|Outstanding Director||Ryan Coogler||Nominated|
|Outstanding Screenplay (Original or Adapted)||Ryan Coogler||Nominated|
|Outstanding Ensemble||The cast of Fruitvale Station||Nominated|
|Outstanding Score||Ludwig Göransson||Nominated|
|Outstanding Breakthrough Actress Performance||Melonie Diaz||Nominated|
|Boston Online Film Critics Association||December 8, 2013||Best New Filmmaker||Ryan Coogler||Won|
|Cannes Film Festival||May 25, 2013||Prix de l'Avenir d'Un Certain Regard||Ryan Coogler||Won|
|Grand Prix d'Un Certain Regard||Ryan Coogler||Nominated|
|Camera d'Or||Ryan Coogler||Nominated|
|Carmel Art and Film Festival||October 12, 2013||Breakout Actress of 2013||Melonie Diaz||Won|
|Central Ohio Film Critics||January 2, 2014||Best Actor||Michael B. Jordan||Nominated|
|Breakthrough Film Artist||Ryan Coogler||Nominated|
|Chicago Film Critics Association||December 16, 2013||Most Promising Filmmaker||Ryan Coogler||Nominated|
|Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association||December 6, 2013||Russell Smith Award||Fruitvale Station||Won|
|Deauville American Film Festival||September 2013||Prix du Jury Révélation Cartier||Fruitvale Station||Won|
|Prix du Public||Fruitvale Station||Won|
|Denver Film Critics Society||January 13, 2014||Best Supporting Actress||Octavia Spencer||Nominated|
|Detroit Film Critics Society||December 13, 2013||Best Breakthrough||Ryan Coogler||Nominated|
|Michael B. Jordan||Nominated|
|Florida Film Critics Circle||December 18, 2013||Pauline Kael Breakout Award||Michael B. Jordan||Runner-Up|
|Gotham Awards||December 2, 2013||Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award||Ryan Coogler||Won|
|Breakthrough Actor||Michael B. Jordan||Won|
|Audience Award||Fruitvale Station||Nominated|
|Hollywood Film Festival||18–20 October 2013||Hollywood Spotlight Award||Michael B. Jordan||Won|
|Houston Film Critics Society||December 15, 2013||Best Picture||Fruitvale Station||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Octavia Spencer||Nominated|
|Humanitas Prize||September 20, 2013||Sundance Feature Film Category||Fruitvale Station||Won|
|Independent Spirit Awards||March 1, 2014||Best First Feature||Fruitvale Station / Ryan Coogler||Won|
|Best Male Lead||Michael B. Jordan||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Female||Melonie Diaz||Nominated|
|Indiana Film Critics Association||December 16, 2013||Best Picture||Fruitvale Station||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Michael B. Jordan||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Octavia Spencer||Nominated|
|Las Vegas Film Critics Society||December 18, 2013||Breakout Filmmaker of the Year||Ryan Coogler||Won|
|NAACP Image Awards||February 22, 2014||Outstanding Motion Picture||Fruitvale Station||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture||Michael B. Jordan||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture||Octavia Spencer||Nominated|
|Outstanding Independent Motion Picture||Fruitvale Station||Won|
|Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture||Ryan Coogler||Nominated|
|Nantucket Film Festival||July 1, 2013||Vimeo Award for Best Writer/Director||Ryan Coogler||Won|
|National Board of Review||December 4, 2013||Top Ten Films||Fruitvale Station||Won|
|Best Supporting Actress||Octavia Spencer||Won|
|Breakthrough Actor||Michael B. Jordan||Won|
|Best Directorial Debut||Ryan Coogler||Won|
|New York Film Critics Circle||December 3, 2013||Best First Film||Fruitvale Station||Won|
|New York Film Critics Online||December 8, 2013||Best Debut Director||Ryan Coogler||Won|
|Phoenix Film Critics Society||December 17, 2013||Breakthrough Performance on Camera||Michael B. Jordan||Nominated|
|Breakthrough Performance Behind the Camera||Ryan Coogler||Nominated|
|Producers Guild of America||January 19, 2014||Stanley Kramer Award||Fruitvale Station||Won|
|San Francisco Film Critics Circle||December 15, 2013||Best Supporting Actress||Octavia Spencer||Nominated|
|Marlon Riggs Award||Ryan Coogler||Won|
|Santa Barbara International Film Festival||February 4, 2014||Virtuoso Award||Michael B. Jordan||Won|
|Satellite Awards||March 9, 2014||Breakthrough Award Performance||Michael B. Jordan||Won|
|Honorary Satellite Award||Ryan Coogler||Won|
|St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association||December 16, 2013||Best Actor||Michael B. Jordan||Nominated|
|Stockholm International Film Festival||November 15, 2013||Best First Film||Fruitvale Station||Won|
|Sundance Film Festival||January 26, 2013||Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic||Ryan Coogler||Won|
|Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic||Ryan Coogler||Won|
|Traverse City Film Festival||August 4, 2013||Audience Award - Best American Film||Fruitvale Station||Won|
|Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association||December 9, 2013||Best Supporting Actress||Octavia Spencer||Nominated|
|Women Film Critics Circle||December 17, 2013||Best Actor||Michael B. Jordan||Runner-Up|
|Zurich Film Festival||October 6, 2013||Best International Feature Film||Fruitvale Station||Nominated|
|Best Actor - Special Mention||Michael B. Jordan||Won|
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