Post By RelatedRelated Post
Unless you’re an “industry insider” within the entertainment industry, you’ve probably never heard of Ryan Coogler before. He’s a 26-year-old film director who has acquired recognition at the reputable Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France.
His first feature movie, “Fruitvale Station”, featuring in Cannes’ “Un Certain Regard” competition, touches on a tragic true-life story that occurred in his native San Francisco. The film recounts the 24 hours leading up to the death of Oscar Grant, a young African-American man who was shot and killed by a cop at a subway station just as he is getting his troubled life back on track. Riots broke out following the verdict in the policeman’s trial.
Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station” was warmly applauded at its press screening in Cannes, where it is vying for the Golden Camera prize for young talents. Britain’s Guardian newspaper reviewed the film as “quietly gripping debut” and gave it four out of a maximum five stars. Coogler discussed his success, attributing it to being the product of a two-parent home. “I was incredibly fortunate,” Coogler told reporters. “(…) It’s more than you can ask for. They [his parents] put us [he and his brother] through nice schools. We lived in rough neighborhoods, but we went to nice schools. So I grew up with both those worlds, and for a long time, I didn’t fit in to either.”
Coogler and his family are from the rough Bay Area. “But I started playing sports — and there I fitted in everywhere,” the athletically built director said. He got his first major break while attending film school. Award winning actor Forest Whitaker’s company was seeking to mentor young adults aspiring to get into film. “His company was looking for film makers to mentor while I was in film school,” said Coogler. “For him it’s social issues. Forest is a humanitarian, he does a lot of work in conflict resolution in Africa and the US, so his company was naturally attracted to things that have social relevance. That’s how my name came up.”
Whitaker even put up more than half of his own money to fund “Fruitvale Station.” Coogler’s newfound success is overwhelming, but he’s staying focused. “I try to focus on the work, otherwise I think my head would probably explode,” he said.