Fruitvale Station

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Fruitvale Station
Fruitvale Station poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRyan Coogler
Written byRyan Coogler
Produced by
CinematographyRachel Morrison
Edited by
Music byLudwig Göransson
Significant Productions
Distributed byThe Weinstein Company
Release dates
  • January 19, 2013 (2013-01-19) (Sundance)
  • July 12, 2013 (2013-07-12) (United States)
Running time
85 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$17.4 million[3]

Fruitvale Station is a 2013 American biographical drama film written and directed by Ryan Coogler. It is Coogler's feature directorial debut and is based on the events leading to the death of Oscar Grant, a young man killed in 2009 by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale district station in Oakland.

The film stars Michael B. Jordan as Grant, with Kevin Durand and Chad Michael Murray playing the two BART police officers involved in Grant's death, although their names were changed for the film. Melonie Diaz, Ahna O'Reilly and Octavia Spencer also star.[4]

Fruitvale Station debuted under its original title, Fruitvale, at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival,[5] where it won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film.[6] It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the award for Best First Film. It was released in theaters on July 12, 2013.[7]


The film depicts the last day of the life of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old from Hayward, California, before he was fatally shot by BART Police in the early morning hours of January 1, 2009. The movie begins with the actual footage of Grant and his friends being detained by BART Police at the Fruitvale station in Oakland on January 1, 2009, at 2:15 a.m., right before the shooting.

Grant and his girlfriend Sophina argue about Grant's recent infidelity. He unsuccessfully attempts to get his job back at a grocery store. He briefly considers selling some marijuana but decides to dump the stash. Grant later attends a birthday party for his mother, Wanda, and agrees to take the BART train to see fireworks and other New Year's festivities in San Francisco since she worries about him driving.

On the return train, Katie, a customer at the grocery store where Grant used to work, recognizes Grant and calls out his name. This causes a man Grant knew in prison to notice him, and a fight breaks out. The BART police respond to the scene. Grant is among the passengers the BART police attempt to arrest. While being restrained by officers Caruso and Ingram, he is shot in the back by Ingram. A stunned Caruso demands to know what happened. Grant is rushed to the hospital and dies shortly after emergency surgery.

Title cards at the end describe the aftermath: Grant's killing sparked a series of protests and riots across the city after several witnesses recorded the incident with cellphones and video cameras. The BART officers involved were fired, and "Ingram" (the officers' names were changed) was later tried and found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, claiming he mistook his gun for his Taser and served an 11-month sentence. The final footage is of a gathering of people celebrating Grant's life on January 1, 2013, with Grant's daughter, Tatiana, standing among them.




Ryan Coogler was a graduate student at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts when Grant was shot on January 1, 2009. Coogler expressed his desire to make a film about Grant's last day: "I wanted the audience to get to know this guy, to get attached, so that when the situation that happens to him happens, it's not just like you read it in the paper, you know what I mean? When you know somebody as a human being, you know that life means something." Coogler met the Grant family's attorney, John Burris, through a mutual friend, and also met with and worked with Grant's family.[8]

In January 2011, Forest Whitaker's production company was looking for new young filmmakers to mentor. Coogler met Head of Production Nina Yang Bongiovi and showed her his projects. He soon had a meeting with Whitaker, who supported Fruitvale.[9][10] Coogler met with advisers of Sundance Screenwriters Lab and developed the script with the help of creative advisors Tyger Williams, Jessie Nelson and Zach Sklar.[11] The film received funding from the Feature Film Program (FFP)[11] and the San Francisco Film Society.[9]

Coogler had Michael B. Jordan in mind to play Grant before writing the script.[10] In April 2012, Jordan and Octavia Spencer joined the cast.[12] Spencer also received a co-executive producer credit as she directly participated in funding the film and contacted investors when a deal was lost during the filming.[13] Notable investors included Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, a bestselling novel adapted as a successful film, for which Spencer won an Oscar.[14] In April 2012, Hannah Beachler signed on as the film's production designer.[15]


Fruitvale Station was shot in Oakland, California,[8] for 20 days in July 2012.[16] Scenes were shot at and around the Bay Area Rapid Transit platform where Grant was killed.[17] BART agreed to let the crew film at Fruitvale station for three four-hour nights. Most of the platform scenes were shot over the course of two nights (with another night dedicated to the sequences on the train that led up to the police confrontation).[18] San Quentin State Prison served as a filming location for a flashback scene with prisoners featured as extras.[19] The film was shot in Super 16 mm format using Arriflex 416 cameras and Zeiss Ultra 16 lenses.[20]

The film includes actual amateur footage of the shooting, which Coogler initially did not want to use:

I didn't want any real footage in the film. But you sometimes have to take a step back. Being from the Bay Area, I knew that footage like the back of my hand, but more people from around the world had no idea about this story. It made sense for them to see that footage and see what happened to Oscar, and I think it was a responsibility that we had to put that out there.[18]


Fruitvale Station's musical score is by Coogler's fellow USC graduate Ludwig Göransson,[21] who said of the scoring process:

Ryan and I talked a lot about how sound design was going to have a huge role in the movie and very early on I got sent the actual sound recordings of the BART train. I manipulated the train sound and made it almost feel like a dark ambient synth sound and I used it almost throughout the whole BART platform scene. The other element in the score is lots of layered and manipulated guitars sounding almost like haunting pads.[22]

Coogler added:

One thing that we always wanted to be conscious of with the score was to make sure that it always felt organic. A lot of the film would play without score, so Ludwig made sure that whenever we brought score in came out of sounds in the environment.[22]

A soundtrack album, Fruitvale Station: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, was released digitally on September 24, 2013, and on CD on October 15, 2013, through Lakeshore Records.[22]

Track listing[23]
1."Mob Shit"The Jacka, Cellski & Peezy4:40
2."Rubber Band"Mar Keyes, William Peoples & Noah Coogler4:04
3."Won't Be Right"The Jacka & Cellski4:13
4."Hey Little Mama"Mistah F.A.B, Johnny Ca$h & The Jacka3:56
5."Intelligent"Mar Keyes, William Peoples & Phillip Henderson3:25
6."Tatiana"Ludwig Göransson1:13
7."Emi"Ludwig Göransson0:47
8."The Dog"Ludwig Göransson1:18
9."Prison"Ludwig Göransson1:00
10."Picking Up T"Ludwig Göransson0:44
11."Undefeated"Ludwig Göransson0:26
12."Love and Oprah"Ludwig Göransson0:36
13."Dinner Time"Ludwig Göransson1:38
14."Tatiana and Firecrackers"Ludwig Göransson1:13
15."Gumbo"Ludwig Göransson0:46
16."Bart Station"Ludwig Göransson5:00
17."Who's That For?"Ludwig Göransson2:30
18."End Titles"Ludwig Göransson6:47
19."Fruitvale Suite"Ludwig Göransson7:53
Total length:52:09


The Weinstein Company commissioned three murals to be painted in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco by street artists Ron English, Lydia Emily and LNY in anticipation of the film.[24]

Some people questioned having a poster for the film in Fruitvale Station, but a BART spokeswoman said about this decision:

There was no debate whether to allow Fruitvale Station [advertisements] on BART. None whatsoever. We really support Ryan. He's just an amazing person ... I think that Ryan had said it was his intention to show his love for Oakland and the people of Oakland, and he really succeeded.[25]

Promotional material used on the film's Facebook page and website referred to the controversial killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida, which was in the news at the same time as the film's release.[26] This drew some criticism, with publicist Angie Meyer stating, "It's absolutely inappropriate and morally wrong to use a high-profile case to create publicity and buzz around a movie release."[27]

As part of its film promotion, the Weinstein Co. set up the "I am __" campaign to encourage people to share stories of overcoming acts of social injustice or mistreatment, and to upload photos or other artworks related to those experiences.[28]


Fruitvale Station premiered on January 19, 2013, at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was listed as Fruitvale before undergoing a title change.[29] After premiering at Sundance, it was at the center of a distribution bidding war. The Weinstein Company acquired the film rights for about $2 million.[30] In May 2013, Fruitvale Station appeared in the Un Certain Regard, an award section recognizing unique and innovative films, at the 66th Cannes Film Festival[31] and won the award for Best First Film.[32]

The Oakland premiere was held as a private screening at Grand Lake Theater on June 20, 2013.[33] The film opened in select theaters on July 12,[34] about the same time as the verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for shooting Trayvon Martin.[28][35]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed an estimated $127,445 on its first day[36] and ended its first weekend of limited release with $377,285 from seven theaters for a $53,898 per-theater-average.[37] It is the third-highest opening of the year for a film in limited release (behind Spring Breakers and The Place Beyond the Pines)[38] and one of the best openings for a Sundance festival top prize winner.[39] A week after its debut, Fruitvale Station expanded to 35 theaters and garnered $742,272 for a $21,832 per-screen average.[40] The film opened nationwide on July 26 in more than 1,000 locations.[41][42] It ranked #10 at the box office, earning $4.59 million.[43] The film has grossed $16,101,339 in the United States and $1,284,491 elsewhere, for a worldwide total of $17,385,830.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 94% with an average rating of 8.10/10, based on 216 reviews. The site's critical consensus states: "Passionate and powerfully acted, Fruitvale Station serves as a celebration of life, a condemnation of death, and a triumph for star Michael B. Jordan."[44] On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 85 out of 100, based on 46 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[45] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of A on an A+ to F scale.[46]

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter called it "a compelling debut" and "a powerful dramatic feature film". He also praised the lead performances: "As Oscar, Jordan at moments gives off vibes of a very young Denzel Washington in the way he combines gentleness and toughness; he effortlessly draws the viewer in toward him. Diaz is vibrant as his patient and loyal girlfriend, while Spencer brings her gravitas to the proceedings as his stalwart mother."[47]

Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt praised the film as the "best film" of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.[48] Singer Billie Eilish has stated it is her favorite film four years in a row in her annual Vanity Fair interview.[49]

Writing for The Village Voice, chief film critic Stephanie Zacharek called Fruitvale Station "a restrained but forceful picture that captures some of the texture and detail of one human life" and praised Coogler, writing that he "dramatizes Oscar's last day by choosing not to dramatize it: The events unfold casually, without any particular scheme. And yet because we know how this story will end, there's a shivery, understated tension running beneath."[50]

In his Sundance festival wrap-up, critic Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Made with assurance and quiet emotion, this unexpectedly devastating drama based on the real life 2009 shooting of an unarmed young black man at an Oakland Fruitvale Station of BART (San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit System - Fruitvale Station) impressed everyone as the work of an exceptional filmmaker."[51]

In a more mixed review, Geoff Berkshire of Variety called it "a well-intentioned attempt to put a human face on the tragic headlines surrounding Oscar Grant." He praised Michael B. Jordan's performance but critiqued the "relentlessly positive portrayal" of the film's subject: "Best viewed as an ode to victim's rights, Fruitvale forgoes nuanced drama for heart-tugging, head-shaking and rabble-rousing."[4]

In a negative New York Post review and subsequent opinion piece in Forbes, Kyle Smith accused Coogler of omitting key information and fabricating other scenes in order to manipulate viewers into a distorted impression of the depicted events.[52][53]

The film appeared on several critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2013:[54]

Ryan Coogler accepts the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic with the crew at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients and nominees Result
AACTA Awards[56] January 10, 2014 Best International Supporting Actress Octavia Spencer Nominated
African-American Film Critics Association[57] December 13, 2013 Best Independent Film Fruitvale Station Won
American Film Institute[58] January 10, 2014 Top Ten Films of the Year Fruitvale Station Won
Austin Film Critics Association[59] December 17, 2013 Best First Film Ryan Coogler Won
Black Reel Awards[60] February 13, 2014 Outstanding Motion Picture Fruitvale Station / Nina Yang Bonogivoi and Forest Whitaker Nominated
Outstanding Actor Michael B. Jordan Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress Melonie Diaz Nominated
Octavia Spencer Nominated
Outstanding Director Ryan Coogler Nominated
Outstanding Screenplay (Original or Adapted) Ryan Coogler Nominated
Outstanding Ensemble The cast of Fruitvale Station Nominated
Outstanding Score Ludwig Göransson Nominated
Outstanding Breakthrough Actress Performance Melonie Diaz Nominated
Boston Online Film Critics Association[61] December 8, 2013 Best New Filmmaker Ryan Coogler Won
Cannes Film Festival May 25, 2013 Prix de l'Avenir d'Un Certain Regard Ryan Coogler Won
Grand Prix d'Un Certain Regard Ryan Coogler Nominated
Camera d'Or Ryan Coogler Nominated
Carmel Art and Film Festival[62] October 12, 2013 Breakout Actress of 2013 Melonie Diaz Won
Central Ohio Film Critics[63] January 2, 2014 Best Actor Michael B. Jordan Nominated
Breakthrough Film Artist Ryan Coogler Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association[64] December 16, 2013 Most Promising Filmmaker Ryan Coogler Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association[65] December 6, 2013 Russell Smith Award Fruitvale Station Won
Deauville American Film Festival[66] September 2013 Prix du Jury Révélation Cartier Fruitvale Station Won
Prix du Public Fruitvale Station Won
Denver Film Critics Society[67] January 13, 2014 Best Supporting Actress Octavia Spencer Nominated
Detroit Film Critics Society[68] December 13, 2013 Best Breakthrough Ryan Coogler Nominated
Michael B. Jordan Nominated
Florida Film Critics Circle[69] December 18, 2013 Pauline Kael Breakout Award Michael B. Jordan Runner-Up
Gotham Awards[70][71] December 2, 2013 Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award Ryan Coogler Won
Breakthrough Actor Michael B. Jordan Won
Audience Award Fruitvale Station Nominated
Hollywood Film Festival[72] 18–20 October 2013 Hollywood Spotlight Award Michael B. Jordan Won
Houston Film Critics Society[73] December 15, 2013 Best Picture Fruitvale Station Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Octavia Spencer Nominated
Humanitas Prize[74] September 20, 2013 Sundance Feature Film Category Fruitvale Station Won
Independent Spirit Awards[75] March 1, 2014 Best First Feature Fruitvale Station / Ryan Coogler Won
Best Male Lead Michael B. Jordan Nominated
Best Supporting Female Melonie Diaz Nominated
Indiana Film Critics Association[76] December 16, 2013 Best Picture Fruitvale Station Nominated
Best Actor Michael B. Jordan Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Octavia Spencer Nominated
Las Vegas Film Critics Society[77] December 18, 2013 Breakout Filmmaker of the Year Ryan Coogler Won
NAACP Image Awards[78] February 22, 2014 Outstanding Motion Picture Fruitvale Station Nominated
Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture Michael B. Jordan Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Octavia Spencer Nominated
Outstanding Independent Motion Picture Fruitvale Station Won
Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture Ryan Coogler Nominated
Nantucket Film Festival[79] July 1, 2013 Vimeo Award for Best Writer/Director Ryan Coogler Won
National Board of Review[80] December 4, 2013 Top Ten Films Fruitvale Station Won
Best Supporting Actress Octavia Spencer Won
Breakthrough Actor Michael B. Jordan Won
Best Directorial Debut Ryan Coogler Won
New York Film Critics Circle[81] December 3, 2013 Best First Film Fruitvale Station Won
New York Film Critics Online[82] December 8, 2013 Best Debut Director Ryan Coogler Won
Phoenix Film Critics Society[83] December 17, 2013 Breakthrough Performance on Camera Michael B. Jordan Nominated
Breakthrough Performance Behind the Camera Ryan Coogler Nominated
Producers Guild of America[84] January 19, 2014 Stanley Kramer Award Fruitvale Station Won
San Francisco Film Critics Circle[85][86] December 15, 2013 Best Supporting Actress Octavia Spencer Nominated
Marlon Riggs Award Ryan Coogler Won
Santa Barbara International Film Festival[87] February 4, 2014 Virtuoso Award Michael B. Jordan Won
Satellite Awards[88] March 9, 2014 Breakthrough Award Performance Michael B. Jordan Won
Honorary Satellite Award Ryan Coogler Won
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association[89] December 16, 2013 Best Actor Michael B. Jordan Nominated
Stockholm International Film Festival[90] November 15, 2013 Best First Film Fruitvale Station Won
Sundance Film Festival January 26, 2013 Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic Ryan Coogler Won
Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic Ryan Coogler Won
Traverse City Film Festival[91] August 4, 2013 Audience Award - Best American Film Fruitvale Station Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association[92] December 9, 2013 Best Supporting Actress Octavia Spencer Nominated
Women Film Critics Circle[93] December 17, 2013 Best Actor Michael B. Jordan Runner-Up
Zurich Film Festival[94][95] October 6, 2013 Best International Feature Film Fruitvale Station Nominated
Best Actor - Special Mention Michael B. Jordan Won

Home media[edit]

Fruitvale Station was made available in Digital HD via Anchor Bay on December 31, 2013.[96] DVD and Blu-ray combo packs were released on January 14, 2014.[97]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Fruitvale Station (15)". Attitude Film Distribution. British Board of Film Classification. April 2, 2014. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
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External links[edit]

Preceded by Sundance Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic
Succeeded by