O.J.: Made in America is a sports documentary feature directed by Ezra Edelman and produced by ESPN Films. The film, released in five installments (and in a limited theatrical release) by ESPN as part of its 30 for 30 series, depicts the rise and fall of O.J. Simpson.
To put it simply: O.J.: Made in America is one of the greatest documentary films I have ever seen (and to be honest, it just might be my favorite). With the award-winning FX series The People v. O.J. Simpson and Ezra Edelman’s 467-minute documentary here, 2016 seemed like 1995 all over again—O.J. Simpson was everywhere! For many people across the nation, O.J. Simpson and the “trial of the century” are only concepts they have heard about from stories. For many others, the tumultuous times surrounding the Hall of Fame running back’s acquittal of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman seem just like yesterday. Considering the varying degrees of O.J. knowledge, Ezra Edelman executed his Made in America project in such a way as to fully explain the social significance of O.J. Simpson and his 1995 trial to any novice, while also uncovering new plot threads for those that lived through it in real time.
The reason O.J. Simpson and his infamous trial were so enthralling at the time—and continue to be today—is because that story had everything, including the perfect blend sports, fame, and race. Ezra Edelman captures the historical impact of O.J. Simpson brilliantly. While Ryan Murphy’s The People v. O.J. Simpson delved deep into the story at the time of the trial, Edelman explored the complete story of O.J. Simpson—the film essentially spans Simpson’s entire life. Edelman vividly examines the early part of Simpson’s life, prior to his fame and fortune, but he is at his best when depicting the social significance of Simpson, a black man, being the most adored figure in America. At a time when black athletes were using their platform to stand for social justice and bring about change, Simpson stood by the motto, “I’m not black, I’m O.J.” Edelman fiercely investigates how O.J.’s stance of transcending race played the central role in making him a figure that white people could adulate. The story of O.J. Simpson’s fame is one of the most fascinating real-life character studies to ever exist, and Edelman’s examination of this enigmatic figure is spectacular.
A story about O.J. Simpson would not be complete without a vigorous survey of the 1995 murder trial. To capture the spirit of Simpson’s trial, Edelman included interviews with many key figures, including Marcia Clark, Bill Hodgman, Gil Garcetti, Carl Douglas, F. Lee Bailey, Barry Scheck, and even the notorious Mark Fuhrman. Edelman takes a vividly introspective look at one of the most recognized events in TV history, and he does so with immeasurable social awareness. Edelman digs into O.J.’s horrifying pattern of domestic violence against Nicole and the role it played in reshaping his perception among a significant portion of the general public; however, Edelman also unveils the role of institutional racism in molding black Americans’ perspective on police brutality and prejudice. The O.J. Simpson trial revealed an intense divisiveness in American society, and Ezra Edelman’s exploration of that discord is superb. O.J.: Made in America is not rated.
O.J.: Made in America trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrB3rOcrJxg
Academy Award nominations for O.J.: Made in America:
Best Documentary Feature (Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow)
Previous movies on the countdown of my Top 10 Films of 2016:
- La La Land
- Nocturnal Animals