OAKLAND//OSCAR GRANT | First-time Bay Area filmmaker Ryan Coogler is sure going to make locals who ridiculed the slain Oscar Grant for supposedly being a thug who somehow got what he deserved feel quite uncomfortable over the next year.
Fruitvale Station, the film detailing the last day of Grant’s life before BART cop Johannes Mehserle fatally shot him in the back on New Year’s morning 2009, will hit theaters July 12. The film is already on one the most highly-anticipated films of the year, winning numerous awards and set to be screened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. A trailer for the film was released Friday:
In the East Bay, we all know the story of Oscar Grant. On a technological note, we all know the prevalence of camera phones at the BART platform that fateful night burgeoned the device's ubiquity. We also realize its presence as the only reason Mehserle was convicted of killing an unarmed man in the back was due to these videos.
From this region’s perspective, however, what this film will do is present a different perspective of the infamous event. In the national media run-up to its opening, what you not hear is racist, connotations, often emanating from the suburbs, that Grant was a gangster and he got what he deserved. Instead, when your 60-year-old father wakes up to watch the Today show, he will likely hear about a film that portrays a flawed, but decent and struggling young man, who did not deserve his fate any more than you do, also a equally flawed and decent person (aren’t we all?).
Conversely, those in the Bay Area who already find heroic attributes in Grant, the film will only be preaching to the choir. There’s a reason you can’t walk around Oakland without seeing Grant’s visage on a wall. It’s because he is a symbol of these times when corporate giants get away with blind robbery while an out-of-control law enforcement apparatus rounds up the weak and the poor and allows them to rot without hope.
Oscar Grant was killed just after the clock struck midnight on 2009. We hardly knew what destruction the Great Recession would wreak at that point, but Oscar Grant foreshadowed what would come next.
When Oakland cops viciously put down a peaceful march in July 2010 protesting the Mehserle decision, the same tactics were used with even greater force over a year later against Occupy Oakland. Every single local print and television corporate media organization blasted your opposition and told you to “get a job” even though you already had one and could actually use another because the one you had couldn't pay the bills.
The band of revolutionaries who took over Frank Ogawa Plaza may appear to the laymen to be protesting an entirely different cause than the one that pervading the same streets a year prior. The seeds of the dissent, however, come from Oscar Grant and so will the next time upset East Bay resident descend en masse at the intersection of 14th and Broadway.