Glenn here with our weekly look at documentaries from theatres, festivals, and on demand. This week we're looking at ESPN's much-buzzed five-part documentary about O.J. Simpson.
Even more coincidental than the release of ESPN’s O.J.: Made in America so soon after Ryan Murphy’s star-studded FX mini-series, The People v. O.J. Simpson, is that the rise to fame of their subject coincided so precisely with the rise to prominence of the African American civil rights movement. The irony was not lost on Simpson with the handsome man who everyone thought “had it all” never being able to out-run the shadow that his own meteoric ascent cast over seemingly the United States’ entire black population. Nor is it lost on director Ezra Edelman who makes the parallels the structural spine of this exceptionally thorough, exquisitely compiled, and exhaustively compelling five-part documentary. It’s not called “Made in America” for nothing – another coincidence it’s worth noting, Made in America is also the name of a pretty good 2008 documentary about the Crips and Bloods war in L.A. by Stacy Peralta – and across 463 minutes, Edelman and his collaborators have crafted a powerful demonstration of the dichotomy of race, fame, and justice in America.
Starting in the 1960s with Simpson’s rise in college football, Edelman’s film wisely doesn’t focus exclusively on the murder of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman and the trial that followed. In fact, it takes until the third episode to even bring it up, instead preferring to spend time examining these early passages of his life for clarity and for clues. Unlike the FX series, O.J.: Made in America is more concerned with attempting to find out how a man like Simpson and the country came to be. [more...]