And the winner is…. “Fruitvale.”
The film about the final days of Oscar Grant, who was shot dead by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle in 2009, won big at Saturday’s Sundance Film Festival Awards. “Fruitvale” earned both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award in the U.S. Dramatic competition.
The movie was directed by Oakland’s Ryan Coogler, whose acceptance speech for the Grand Jury Prize was quoted on the festival blog:
At the end of the day, when I first made this project, it was about humanity, and how we treat the people we love most and the people we don’t know. To get this means that this film made a powerful impact. This goes back to my home, the Bay Area, where Oscar Grant lived for 22 years. I can’t wait to see you all when this is said and done and I’m more articulate and not so emotional.”
You can watch Coogler’s acceptance speech in this video, which was shot from the audience at the awards ceremony.
Coogler received a “standing ovation from a large portion of the crowd,” according to the festival blog. The awards were hosted by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who said of “Fruitvale:” “I f–king loved that movie.” Coogler also received praise from iconic film critic Roger Ebert, among others.
Sundance stands and cheers for Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale.” He’s a 26-year-old first-time filmmaker, and he’s hot. dld.bz/cbTAC
— Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) January 27, 2013
The awards capped an important week for “Fruitvale,” as during Sundance the film’s rights were acquired by The Weinstein Co. in a deal worth a reported $2 million. The acquisition is already giving the movie some Academy Awards buzz: The New York Times says that Harvey Weinstein is expected to support “Fruitvale” in next year’s Oscars race. That would be a big endorsement: Weinstein’s studio has won the last two Best Picture awards and he’s reportedly behind the campaign for one of this year’s nominees, “Silver Linings Playbook.” The Atlantic said The Weinstein Co.’s “Oscar-campaigning acumen is by now the stuff of legend.”
As News Fix reported in July, Coogler made “Fruitvale” with the participation of Grant’s family, and shot scenes at BART. The film follows Grant as he strives to establish himself after leaving San Quentin, according to the Hollywood Reporter, which gave the movie a positive review. Michael B. Jordan (“The Wire,” “Friday Night Lights”) plays Grant in the film and Octavia Spencer (“The Help”) plays his mother.
Here is video of Coogler answering questions from the Sundance audience after the film’s premiere.