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CSUEB prof comments on race, Oakland in 'Fruitvale Station' movie

Movie poster of 'Fruitvale Station'

(Photo: Courtesy of

  • July 9, 2013 5:00am

The critically acclaimed “Fruitvale Station” opens in movie theaters this Friday, July 12. Oakland Tribune reporter Angela Hill interviewed Benjamin Bowser, Cal State East Bay sociology professor emeritus, for his thoughts on how well the film will be received beyond the Bay Area.

Though the movie's director, Ryan Coogler, addresses universal themes of relationships, violence and life's frustrations, will those outside the Bay Area be interested be interested in this Jan. 1, 2009 event that took place at a public transit stop in Oakland?

"If you look at the history of black imagery in film, so often the very best renderings of people of color are flops, like Gordon Parks' 'Sounder,' which was so rich in terms of character portrayal," said Bowser, who follows race depicted in cinema and has long studied the ongoing violence in Oakland. "Commercial success seems directly related to the extent you can reflect racial stereotypes. And therein lies the problem, because that then perpetuates the fear that keeps us all apart."

Oscar winner Octavia Spencer stars as Grant’s mother. She said of the film: “The story itself isn’t a quote unquote ‘black’ story, it’s a human story and the message is very universal.” Spencer also notes that the film received a similar reception from audiences abroad at Cannes as it did at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize.

Read the Oakland Tribune article, “'Fruitvale Station': Oscar Grant movie not intended to polarize, but to humanize” 


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