Pete Hammond

UPDATE: At a Q&A following a Saturday night screening of Fruitvale Station in LA, star Michael B. Jordan told the audience: “I want to hear your questions tonight and answer them. But if you could keep it away from Trayvon, I think my opinion on that is not going to help anybody right now.” Jordan was there to talk about the acclaimed Sundance and Cannes Film Festival award-winning film about Oscar Grant, the young black man who was killed by a white BART officer in a 2009 New Year’s Eve incident at the Fruitvale Station stop in Oakland. ”My heart hurts so bad right now. I wasn’t going to come after I found out about George Zimmerman getting acquitted. It broke me up. That’s why I think this film means so much, because it keeps happening again and again. [We must] learn how to treat each other better and stop judging one another just because we’re different. It’s not just a black and white thing, it’s a people thing. It’s the only way that things are going to take the necessary steps to move in the right direction so things can get better because I don’t think it’s ever gonna stop, but something’s gotta f*****g change.”

Fruitvale Station opened this weekend on seven screens. The Weinstein Company‘s distribution head Erik Lomis said the movie is headed for what may be  a stellar $50,000 per screen first weekend gross putting it the top tier of 2013 specialty openings. He says the company plans to expand it to another 6 markets next weekend and go nationally on July 26th.Jordan, 26, already is getting Oscar buzz for his performance and received a standing ovation. He was emotional talking about the film written and directed by 27-year-old first-time feature  filmmaker Ryan Coogler.  Asked about the reaction of the Grant family to the film, Jordan said they first saw it at its Sundance premiere where it won the Grand Prize as well as Audience Award for narrative films. “At the end of the screening there was a standing ovation which was very humbling. And, during the Q&A, Oscar’s aunt stood up and said, ‘I want to thank you for telling his story. There were certain scenes in the movie where I couldn’t tell the difference you and my nephew’. That was just a huge weight off my shoulders because moving forward that’s all we cared about. One day Oscar’s daughter is going to watch this movie and I just want to make sure we did all we could to put him in the (most realistic) light possible,” he said, adding that he hopes ultimately the movie makes people start thinking about how they can be a better person.

Jordan said about 98% of the film is true because Coogler had access to all the documents pertaining to the case which had nationwide publicity as it unfolded. Names of some of Grant’s friends as well as the officer involved were changed for legal reason because lawsuits are still in progress. The white officer convicted of killing Martin received two years and was released after 11 months. This outcome caused riots among Grant’s supporters.

In answer to one audience member’s question, Jordan said that having been profiled as a black male from Newark helped in playing the role of Grant. “I have been pulled over, illegally searched, handcuffed, sat on the curb numerous times. Driving down the street here in LA I sometimes pull over when I see a cop. Honestly, sometimes those experiences help in playing a role like this. That’s what  I think acting is. What’s relatable you pull from yourself and try to apply to character where it fits.”

Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.

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