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Fruitvale Station: a new movie takes on additional resonance

Fruitvale Station: a new movie takes on additional resonance

The movie Fruitvale Station has received excellent reviews. Writing for The Atlantic, Jason Bailey says it may shed some light on the way that Americans have responded to the killing of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman for his murder.

The shaky iPhone video ran hundreds of times on local and national newscasts in the first months of 2009, but its impact feels new and even bigger when viewed on a movie screen. The image is poor and the sound is distorted by the many raised, overlapping voices, but this much is clear: The BART cops pull one of the young black men from the group, put him on his stomach, and cuff him. And then one of the officers pulls out his pistol and shoots him dead. The sound of that gunshot packs a terrifying jolt, and the screen cuts to black.

In that moment, it seems wrong to think of anything but Oscar Julius Grant III, the man whose life was so brutally taken. But upon seeing it in Fruitvale Station, my mind nevertheless leapt to Sanford, Florida, where the aural counterpart, tapes of 911 calls capturing the final moments of Trayvon Martin’s life, have been unspooling for the past three weeks. In that courtroom, and in the coverage of the events within it, a young black man’s death has prompted speculation, assumptions, and judgment about his life. And in theaters across the country, Fruitvale Station considers those some questions about Oscar Grant.

In drawing the similarities between the cases of Martin and Grant, Bailey concludes:

But what seems certain, in both instances, is that there are those who refuse to acknowledge the possibility that these young black men could be both imperfect and undeserving of their deaths. George Zimmerman may well be acquitted in Martin’s murder. Oscar Grant’s killer, Officer Johannes Mehserle, is currently free after serving less than two years. In both cases, neither the men who killed them nor their apologists saw beyond Grant and Martin’s sweatshirts and black skin to the living, breathing, complicated and troubled human beings inside.

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