Every Monday until the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, EW is celebrating a great success story from independent film’s most prestigious showcase. So far, we’ve revisited Lee Daniel’s Precious, Courtney Hunt’s Frozen River, Greg Mottola’s Adventureland, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon. Today, we look back at Fruitvale Station, the 2013 film from Ryan Coogler.
With the Sundance Film Festival just over a week away, a new crop of unknown filmmakers heads to Park City with dreams of standing ovations, distribution deals, and just enough recognition so that they get to make another movie. Last year, that one film that will forever be associated with Sundance 2013 was Fruitvale Station, the Oscar contender about the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, the real-life Bay Area man who was shot by transit police in 2009.
Director Ryan Coogler had been living in Oakland when Grant was shot, an altercation that was captured by onlookers’ cell phones and immediately posted online. Coogler was a promising student filmmaker who’d spent time at the Sundance Institute, and when he met with Forest Whitaker and members of the Oscar winner’s production company, he pitched Grant’s story. With Whitaker’s guidance — and the blessing of Grant’s family — Coogler pieced together Grant’s last 24 hours into a moving and complex drama starring Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer. The film won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize, as well as the Audience Award, and it opened in theaters in July to rave reviews.
Click below to see Coogler and his cast at last year’s Sundance, just as the festival was realizing what Fruitvale was all about.
Take another look at the trailer for Fruitvale Station: