Biggie probably said it best: “You’re nobody until somebody kills you.” And in the rare case where death plucks you from everyday anonymity to national news story, a lot is gained and probably even more is lost. I’ve been thinking about this a lot for the past week while I’ve been in Oakland. Ads for Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station”, a fictional portrayal of Oscar Grant’s death at the hand’s of a BART police officer back in 2009, are all over the city as the film gets ready to hit theaters this week. Meanwhile, in Florida, George Zimmerman’s trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin has been on cable news nonstop.
On the one hand, it means something that the deaths of black men and boys are getting attention. On the other, there’s something about that attention that minimizes them, that transforms their lives from individual cases to national causes.
Ryan Coogler recently spoke with Sergio from Shadow and Act. What stood out to me was Coogler’s commitment to humanizing Grant in the film. He’s neither a hero nor villain, which is an experience to which I think most of us can relate. But it’s a point worth stressing given the tremendous amount of attention surrounding his case, both in Oakland and across the country. Grant will be remembered as the smiling 22-year-old clad in a black beanie and hoodie. In this film, Coogler does what any meaningful artist sets out to do: show a relatable human who’s flawed, yes, but certainly doesn’t deserve to die.
Check out an excerpt of Coogler’s interview after the jump.