I just left The Archlight theater off of Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. At present SWYPING, (don’t judge me, I’m an Android lover) I’m getting off the Metro Red line at Vermont and Wilshire. I just wanted to take a few moments to document some things.
Tonight I saw Fruitvale Station, the highly anticipated film that received a thunderous applaud at Cannes. But before I give you my take on the film, let’s talk about what happened right BEFORE the film. Like most people who roll out to the movies solo, okay, not most, just those with HIGH Self-ESTEEM (lol), I found myself fiddling with my cellphone, scrolling through my timeline on Twitter. What I read were a plethora of tweets with our nation’s hottest topic and most recent verdict. ZIMMERMAN FOUND NOT GUILTY. “Oh, wow”. I thought to myself. Wow. I literally wanted to share the news with someone, anyone, but like I said before, I was solo.
Lights up. Fruitvale Station. From the indie cinematography and the lack of that “commercialized” film look, you know the one, where everything, everyone, and every cut appears perfect; I would have to say Fruitvale does not fit that mold. But, it is bound to be a commercial success. Why? Because, at least ONE element in this body of work has to resonate with you emotionally. You do not have to be of a certain race to see this movie. White. Black. Brown. Whatever. You do not have to speak urbanics, ebonics, the Queen’s English or hell, even English period to understand it, because this film speaks a universal language. Human. The particulars of family love, parental bonds, soul connections, good versus evil dilemmas, life-changing decisions, all of it, can be found in Fruitvale. Typically after watching a film, my habit for as long as I can remember is to see what ROGER EBERT has to say. How many stars did he give the film? Do I agree with his review? Etcetera ,Etcetera. But today, I’m sure Roger, God rest his soul, would have at the very least given this film 4 stars. From the score, to the performances everything seemed real. Like the epitome of real. Just on the way home tonight, (coincidentally I took the bus) two men got into a physical altercation and if any one man was just a bit crazier I’m sure there would have been blood.
I had to check myself and not cry during the realization of Oscar’s fate. Not because I didn’t want to but because I am an actor and was there as a student of the craft. A simple observer. I wanted to learn something. Anything. And that I did.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending an industry panel during the Los Angeles Film Festival held by some of today’s hottest filmmakers. Sitting next to Ava Duvernay, was an unfamiliar face and an equally unfamiliar name, Ryan Coogler. When his name was announced, I was completely embarrassed that I wasn’t up to speed on this young brother. As it would turn out, he is the witty writer AND director of the award-winning film Fruitvale. Wow.
What impressed me most about Ryan was his humbleness and forthrightness about the film and its process. I leaned over to my friend and whispered, “This is what real looks like.” She silently agreed. Ryan took a true story and kept it one hundred. A story of injustice bestowed upon by a judicial system plagued with faults. Oscar Grant, an unarmed father, son, brother, uncle and husband-to-be lost his life, while handcuffed, at the hands of a man in uniform. Trayvon Martin, also unarmed, and some grieving mother’s son and a father’s legacy, also lost his life to a self-proclaimed, Do-it-Yourself “man in uniform”. Both men were prematurely robbed of their RIGHT TO LIFE.
Many people tonight are justifiably angry with how our justice system functions. What’s right? Whose guilty or not? Whose excuse is justified or not? Most of us feel hopeless. But, I’m here to be an encourager and to point out how WE can make a difference. Yes, this country’s past is a dirty one and yes, there are those that wish to keep the antebellum way of thinking current, but we as American’s, the strongest nation in the world, can change it.
What Ryan Coogler created was one of many methods aimed at changing the mindset of society. He wrote. He wrote a terrific script that I’m certain was performed beyond his expectations, a script that addressed INJUSTICE Face-to-Face. Maybe, in that Archlight theater tonight there was someone whose life was forever changed by one man’s excellent portrayal of injustice as we know it today. If Fruitvale Station is playing in a theater near you, you’d be amiss not to indulge in what I would call Cinema at its finest.