Fruitvale Station

Fruitvale Station Information

Fruitvale Station (originally titled Fruitvale) is a 2013 American drama film written and directed by Ryan Coogler. It is Coogler's first feature-length film and is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a young man who was killed by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Station in Oakland, California.

The film stars Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant. Forest Whitaker is one of the film's producers. Kevin Durand and Chad Michael Murray play the two BART police officers involved in Grant's death. The names of the officers were changed for the film.

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 purports to tell the story of Oscar Grant III, a22-year-old from Hayward, California and his experiences on the last day of his life, before he was fatally shot by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) Police in the early morning hours of New Year's Day 2009.



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 Oscar before writing the script. In April 2012, Jordan and Octavia Spencer joined the cast. She also received a co-producer credit as she directly participated in funding the film and contacted investors when a deal was lost during the filming. Notably, investors included Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, a bestselling novel adapted as a successful movie. In April 2012, Hannah Beachler asked to be involved in the design of the film.

Fruitvale Station was filmed in Oakland, California, in 20 days in July 2012. Scenes were shot at and around the Bay Area Rapid Transit platform where Grant was killed. 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 Weinstein Co. 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.

Box office

The film grossed an estimated $127,445 on its first night 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 a total of $15,768,000, as of September 8, 2013.

Critical reception

Reviews have been largely positive; the film holds a 94% approval rating on aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 8.2/10, based on 135 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads: "Passionate and powerfully acted, Fruitvale Station serves as a celebration of life, a condemnation of death, and a triumph for star Michael B. Jordan." At 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 43 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."

Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt has praised the film as the "best film" of Sundance Film Festival 2013.

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 Fact checker article in Forbes, Kyle Smith concluded that Coogler omits key information, while fabricating other scenes, in order to manipulate viewers into a distorted impression of what happened.


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients and nominees Result
Sundance Film Festival January 26, 2013 Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic Ryan Coogler
Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic Ryan Coogler
Cannes Film Festival May 25, 2013 Prix de L'Avenir d'Un Certain Regard Ryan Coogler
Grand Prix d'Un Certain Regard Ryan Coogler
Camera d'Or Ryan Coogler
Traverse City Film Festival August 4, 2013 Audience Award - Best American Film Fruitvale Station

See also

  • BART Police shooting of Oscar Grant

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