Here’s one of the most morbid thoughts you can ever put in your head: will I die today? This thought isn’t to spur you to live each day like it’s your last. It’s a simple observation. Where has life led you to this point, where would you like your life to go, and how does one affect the other? In his debut feature Fruitvale, writer-director Ryan Coogler goes into the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, who was infamously shot by BART police officers in Oakland, California on New Year’s Day, 2009. Coogler’s solemn, no-frills direction lets us walk into Oscar’s life, and become absolutely devastated as it heads to its inevitable conclusion. The film’s emotional impact is only lessened by Coogler’s bizarre decision to push a message that doesn’t coincide with his movie’s theme.
Among the many great films premiering this week at Sundance Film Festival is Ryan Coogler’s drama Fruitvale. The writer/director brings us his representation of the final day in the life of Oscar Grant, the 22-year-old Bay Area resident who was shot by a police officer in the Fruitvale BART station on New Year’s Eve, 2008. Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, Redtails) plays the man who was a father, a fiancé, a son and a friend whose life was tragically ended that fateful day. The film also stars Melonie Diaz as Grant’s fiancé and Octavia Spencer (The Help, Smashed) as his mother.
After the film’s premiere, I was able to speak to director Ryan Coogler about the film. He told me about his connection to this story and how he originally got involved with it, the sense of responsibility he felt to Grant’s family, and what he hopes people take away with them after seeing the film. A previous Sundance Lab participant, Coogler discussed how it feels to be back at Sundance with his finished film, as well as his future plans. Click after the jump to read the full interview.