Oscar Grant III was a 22-year-old man learning how to become an adult, struggling with the responsibilities of being a better partner to his girlfriend, Sophina, and a better father to their 4-year-old daughter, Tatiana. Despite Grant’s resolve to make progress, his resolutions were cut short when he was fatally shot at the Fruitvale subway station in Oakland, Calif. in the early hours of New Year’s Day, 2009.
Filmmaker Ryan Coogler was a graduate student at the Universtity of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts at the time of the shooting, and had come home to Richmond, just north of Oakland in the East Bay area, for the holidays. He remembers seeing the footage of the shooting, captured by dozens of cell-phone cameras and quickly going viral on YouTube and local TV stations, for the first time and the way he reacted.
“It shattered me,” he said.
The community’s reaction and the stark realness of the shootings caused by the footage being replayed constantly on TV and the Internet left Coogler with the 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?,” Coogler said. “When you know somebody as a human being, you know that life means something.”
Michael B. Jordan plays Oscar Grant III, Academy-Award winner Octavia Spencer plays Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, and Melonie Diaz plays opposite Jordan as Grant’s girlfriend, Sophina Mesa, in this beautifully tragic feature that debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, taking home both the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film. Nominated for more than 70 international awards, the film also won the award for Best First Film from the 66th Cannes Film Festival.
The film is presented by the Grand County Public Library in conjunction with the Utah Film Center as part of ongoing series that is dedicated to bringing “the best in independent, documentary, and dramatic films to undeserved Utah populations.”
Library assistant Jessie Magleby sees a deeper message in the film, beneath the obvious racial profiling and racial tension issues, “that of being nonjudgmental. So often we assume we know all about someone just by looking at them. All human beings, like Oscar Grant, are works in progress. Our stories are complex; not all good and not all wicked.”
A wine and cheese hors d’oeuvres course presented by the Moab Valley Mulicultural Center will be hosted at the Museum of Moab immediately before the film on Thursday, March 20th from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Food and drink will be presented by Buck’s Grill House and Castle Creek Winery.
Both the film and the wine-and-cheese reception coincide with the Love Utah Give Utah fundraiser, which is based entirely online this year at www.LoveUTGiveUT.org. Love Utah Give Utah is an umbrella fundraiser for a wide variety of nonprofits in the state, said Moab Valley Mulitcultural Center director Rhiana Medina.
“We will be serving wine, cheese, hors d’oeuvres – and love,” she said.
Award-winning film documents last day in the life of a struggling young father
“All human beings, like Oscar Grant, are works in progress. Our stories are complex; not all good and not all wicked,”
When: Thursday, March 20 at 7 p.m.
Where: Star Hall 159 E. Center St.