"Fruitvale Station" has come under some fire for a fictional scene and the film's promotion being tied to the George Zimmerman trial.
The movie from Oakland director Ryan Coogler details the final day of Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed by a BART officer on Jan. 1, 2009. The film is out in limited release.
Coogler has confirmed that in filling in some blanks in Grant's day, he added a fictitious scene in which Grant befriends a dog that is later hit and killed by a car. A Huffington Post reporter asked Coogler if that scene could be considered manipulative by making an animal-loving Grant more likable.
"Yeah, but that's not the intention," Coogler told the reporter. "That's not the intention to show that this guy's a great guy. That wasn't the intention at all. And that's fine, that's the risk that you run with a scene like that. I can tell you what the scene was about and why it's there -- because, it's funny, it's a very polarizing scene. Some people get the intention and it's their favorite scene in the movie. Some people hate the whole movie because of the scene. Like, 'I feel manipulated.'"
Coogler added that the scene was important to him and actor Michael B. Jordan, who played Grant, because of Grant's fondness for pit bulls, a dog breed that often makes the news for its aggressive behavior.
"You never hear about a pit bull doing anything good in the media," Coogler said in the Huffington Post interview. "And they have a stigma to them ... and, in many ways, pit bulls are like young African-American males. Whenever you see us in the news, it's for getting shot and killed or shooting and killing somebody -- for being a stereotype. And that's what you see for African-Americans in the media and the news."
The limited release for "Fruitvale Station" also comes as closing arguments are made in the George Zimmerman trial, and some of the film's promotional material is being tied to that trial.
Zimmerman is on trial for shooting black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida, which Zimmerman said was an act of self-defense.
A marketing photo on "Fruitvale's" Facebook page shows an image of Jordan as Grant and a quote from Coogler: "Anytime someone's life is lost and there's an inkling of politics involved, that person is not around to defend himself and his character gets pulled in different directions depending on what side of the fence you sit on. We saw it happen with Trayvon Martin, and it shows no signs of slowing down."
TV ads for "Fruitvale Station" also began airing during coverage of the Zimmerman trial, although ad reps for Weinstein Company have told news outlets that the ads were about reaching a "crossover audience" that includes cable news, not necessarily about linking to the actual trail coverage.
Entertainment and political publicist Angie Meyer criticized the marketing campaign in FOX411's Pop Tarts column: "It's absolutely inappropriate and morally wrong to use a high profile case to create publicity and buzz around a movie release. But capitalize on political bias and a high-profile case together, and Hollywood thrives on it."
The Weinstein Company has not yet responded.