On Saturday, Bay Area filmmaker, Ryan Coogler accepted the U.S. Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at the Sundance Festival, for his original work: Fruitvale. Fruitvale centers around the life and murder of Oscar Grant, a young father who was shot dead by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer while lying facedown on an Oakland, CA train platform.
The 2009 incident of police brutality was captured on camera for the world to see, BART officer Johannes Mehserle fired one round into Grant's back. Mehserle later claimed he thought he was firing his taser -- one of many unbelievable missteps that occurred that night at the Fruitvale BART station.
ColorOfChange members mobilized in support of Grant's family, demanding justice for the young man's death. But after only 11 months in prison, Mehserle, already known for his police misconduct, was released. Grant's case was just one illustration of how the vilification of young Black men can lead to terrible outcomes for them in the criminal justice system. Moreover, Mehserle's meager sentence demonstrates the reluctance to hold police perpetrators accountable.
In his acceptance speech, 26-year-old Coogler proclaimed that "When I first wrote this project, it was about humanity. How we treat each other, how we treat the people that we love the most, and how we treat people that we don't know." Coogler's film brings the story of Oscar Grant, and countless others like him, to the world stage. Watch the Democracy Now! segment above to see a clip from the film, and hear Coogler's acceptance speech.