Nearly five years after an unarmed 22-year-old black man was shot and killed by a police officer at a Bay Area Rapid Transit station in Oakland, a high-profile movie based on the incident opened Friday in seven theatres across the country, including one not far from the subway station itself.
"Fruitvale Station" depicts the death of Oscar Grant, who died on Jan. 1, 2009, at the Fruitvale BART stop where the shooting occurred. His shooting, captured on cellphone videos by onlookers and spread over the Internet, led to protests and demonstrations in the Bay Area and beyond.
In his review, Times film critic Kenneth Turan called "Fruitvale Station," which stars Michael B. Jordan as Grant and was directed by Ryan Coogler, "terribly moving" and wrote that its "demonstration of how effective understated, naturalistic filmmaking is at conveying even the most incendiary reality is as hopeful as the story it tells is despairing."
Several screenings of the movie -- which opens just as a jury deliberates in the closely followed George Zimmerman trial in Florida -- sold out Friday evening at Oakland's Grand Lake Theatre, about four miles from the Fruitvale station, according to an employee there, Karely Cerritos. She added that the Grand Lake added showtimes on Saturday morning to accommodate more customers.
"It was really busy last night," Cerritos said early Saturday. "After the shows let out people gathered in front," though she added that it was unclear if there "was more going on than just people waiting for rides." Cerritos said she'd seen "no protests or anything negative" regarding the film but had heard about an organized bike ride from the Fruitvale station to the movie theater. "And people have been driving by honking their horns," she said.
"Fruitvale Station" earned $127,445 as of Friday night, according to an estimate from the film's distributor, the Weinstein Co.