A Death Retold: Q&A with Filmmaker Ryan Coogler

Jan. 3, 2013 / By



Question & Answer, Lani Conway, New America Media

Editor’s Note: At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, 26-year-old filmmaker Ryan Coogler makes his feature debut with “Fruitvale,” a drama inspired by the real-life killing of Oscar Grant by Bay Area Rapid Transit police on New Year’s Day, 2009. With big-name participation by producer Forest Whitaker and actors Octavia Spencer, Michael B. Jordan and Chad Michael Murray, the Richmond-based Coogler—named one of Filmmaker magazine’s 25 new faces of 2012—is generating lots of buzz for his controversial subject matter and his own unlikely story.

What compelled you to tell Oscar Grant’s story?

When you see the [cell phone] video [of the shooting], you think, that could have happened to me, or my brothers or friends. Oscar looked like us. As I researched, I found that we had mutual friends—he went to the same school as my fiancé, and my cousin knew him really well. We’re both black, the same age, and from the East Bay. This story needed to be told by someone familiar with his situation.

Seeing the fallout from the video, there’s was a lot of frustration. As an artist, I’m fortunate enough to have an outlet for expressing that frustration.

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New America Media is the country's first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 3,000 ethnic news organizations. Over 57 million ethnic adults connect to each other, to home countries and to America through 3000+ ethnic media outlets, the fastest growing sector of American journalism. Founded by the nonprofit Pacific News Service in 1996, NAM is headquartered in California with offices in New York and Washington D.C., and partnerships with journalism schools to grow local associations of ethnic media.