An O.J. Simpson Documentary Became One of the Best Movies of All Time – Daily worlds news


Summary

  • O.J.: Made in America
    covers everything about O.J. Simpson while also transcending the typical true crime documentary, becoming a perfect film about America.
  • The nearly eight-hour film won practically every award possible for a documentary, a testament to its quality and ability to captivate viewers on multiple levels.
  • Made in America
    is not just about O.J. Simpson, but delves into race, class divisions, celebrity culture, and societal issues, making it a significant cultural study.

O.J. Simpson has passed away, leaving behind a complicated, sometimes frustrating, sometimes exhilarating, and often disturbing legacy behind him. Of course, Orenthal James Simpson has become deeply wedged in the pop-cultural lexicon by now, famous for a career that went from the NFL to Hollywood to ‘the trial of the century.’ Everyone remembers the white Bronco being chased by the police, with half the nation staring at their television sets. We remember the trial and that, “if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit.” We remember If I Did It, with the “if” hidden from sight. So what can a documentary film cover that we don’t already know? In the case of O.J.: Made in America, the answer is everything.

And that’s almost exactly what O.J.: Made in America does — cover everything. Filmmaker Ezra Edelman understood that Simpson directly intersected with multiple pillars of culture, in a way that transcends basic true crime narratives. He spends nearly eight hours exploring the connection (either literal or thematic) between O.J. Simpson and the American Dream, race relations, Rodney King, policing, class divisions, and the mainstream obsession with celebrity. The result became one of the greatest films ever made.

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Made in America Wins Every Award

O.J.: Made in America

5/5

Release Date
May 20, 2016
Seasons
1
Creator
Ezra Edelman
Directors
Ezra Edelman

While awards are hardly objective evidence of quality, it’s telling that an eight-hour documentary about a criminal ended up winning basically every award it could. It’s a testament to the film’s quality (which was told in multiple parts on television but also screened in movie theaters in order to participate in festivals and compete in award ceremonies).

Along with winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature (and being the longest film to ever receive an Oscar nomination and win), O.J.: Made in America also won multiple Primetime Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award. The film also won Best Documentary or Best Non-Narrative Feature from the New York Film Critics Circle, National Society of Film Critics, National Board of Review, International Documentary Association, Directors Guild of America Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, American Film Institute Awards, and the Gotham Awards. That’s about as universally acclaimed as a documentary can be in any given year. The great writer Ta-Nehisi Coates has called it a “triumph of narrative tension.”

And 2016 happened to be a big year for documentary films. Some of the best include Weiner, Cameraperson, Tower, De Palma, 13th, Fire at Sea, Tickled, I Am Not Your Negro, Gleason, Lo and Behold, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes, Before the Flood, Zero Days, and Life, Animated. That is a lot of political and cultural films, so the fact that an incredibly long study of a football player turned murder suspect would best them all is very telling. It means that Made in America is much more than the sum of its parts.

O.J.: Made in America Is About Much More Than O.J. Simpson

Made in America is unequivocally set apart from true crime documentary studies of Simpson like The Secret Tapes of the O.J. Case: The Untold Story, How OJ Simpson Got Away with It, OJ Simpson: Endgame, O.J. Simpson: Who Killed Nicole, and Nicole Brown Simpson: The Final 24. While those documentaries all study the murder, trial, and acquittal of O.J. Simpson, which became one the most-watched television events in history, Made in America draws outside the lines.

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The film explores Simpson’s childhood poverty and early struggles before his time playing football for USC and winning the Heisman Trophy. It studies how someone who was poor and Black used football and his physical prowess to strip himself of his class and race, becoming a rich man who was lionized by white football fans. As he liked to say, “I’m not Black, I’m O.J.” Meanwhile, Made in America studies the cultural evolution and racial divisions in America which happened in tandem with Simpson’s career.

Rodney King and O.J. Simpson Form Perfect Parallels

This all culminates with the brutal police beating of Rodney King, which was caught on tape as the commercial accessibility of consumer recording allowed regular citizens to film things cheaply. Four officers who monstrously assaulted King were tried and acquitted by a jury in 1992, protected from the charges of excessive force. This verdict led to riots breaking out in Los Angeles, three decades before the Black Lives Matter movement. People protested police violence, and the police reacted with further violence.

Made in America brilliantly ties this to Simpson’s murder trial and his own acquittal. The film expertly shows how power and profit dictate the judicial system even more so than race. But because Simpson was Black, his acquittal almost seemed like a form of justice to the millions of minorities who had been heartbroken year after year when the police, the politicians, and the rich got away with all their crimes. For once, someone like them, a Black man born in poverty, had escaped the wrath of the justice system.

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Of course, Made in America doesn’t stop with Simpson’s murder trial, choosing to explore all of his life, from civil trials to petty crimes. It’s a tragic epilogue, watching Simpson become reduced to a perpetual TMZ subject, and it perfectly parallels society’s obsession with reality television and cheap true crime series.

We’ve only barely touched on the brilliance of Made in America, and encourage everyone to watch it. By all accounts, he did not deserve this documentary, but sometimes a flawed and often despicable subject is the only way we can understand our own society. Six years later, Made in America remains one of the greatest films of all time. The entire film can be watched on Hulu here with the Disney bundle, or you can rent or purchase it on Prime Video or Google Play. You can stream it through ESPN below:

Watch O.J.: Made in America



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