Fruitvale station: where memory locks you in

A real tragic story -relating to the sudden death of the young Afro American Oscar Grant (exceptional Michael Jordan) shot by a police officer at Fruitvale station in the first hour on the first New year day of 2009- directed by Ryan Coogler, makes spectators empathize with the problem; no wonder why it is easy to happen when every city has at least one victim to declare in a similar case. In Athens, the sudden death of Alexandros Grigoropoulos on the 6th of December, in 2008, has been kept in our memory. Anyway, this film brings into question how well you can cope with tragic and unfair life by revealing your artistic skills or talents.

Ryan Coogler who directed “Fruitvale station” has worked with imprisoned youth at San Francisco's Juvenile Hall. Maybe his experience from that period made him build a strong memory full of personal stories that needed special care and an eye on them. When the tragic death of Oscar Grant took place, cause and reason crossed one another. So, Coogler had a story and, moreover, a personal experience to be involved.

However, the way you choose to film the last 24 hours of a 22 year old victim on the last day of the year before the new one comes, is not an easy one unless you want to end up in a commonplace script. Although it is certain that real cinema makes spectators feel as spectActors and think of public issues as citizens of the world, in terms of intent and realization, this movie did not treat its subject in a more artistic way, that is, through music role or scenes’ sequence. Therefore, it did not meet the expectation to become an overall interesting movie. Given that the plot is normal and the sequence of events tends to be predictable, we just watch a story of which the end is known; no surprise. On the other hand, the interpretations are very good in order to feel what’s going on. We certainly like Oscar when he is jobless, helps an unknown woman by giving her his cell phone, takes cares of a stray dog, hugs his daughter and kisses his wife Sophina (Melonie Dias). We watch his effort to fix and take his life back without going to jail again. But all these scenes, beyond life representation, do not seem to correlate in order to give birth to something else. In a cell phone story, when one rings another, we are much embedded in reality; then we end up in metro reality before the racism hot issue comes to the fore and the “sudden” murder takes place. In conclusion, “Fruitvale station” managed to gain the audience award and the grand jury prize of the dramatic competition of Sundance but did not manage to cause something more than real empathy in a common ground. The strong personal cry of somebody in the dark before lights were turned on to make us stroll downtown in Athens is also an indication of this truth.  

19th Athens International Film Festival “Nychtes Premieras”

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