The 467 minutes documentary film O.J.: Made in America (2016) speaks volumes about the American sports, celebrity culture and black history. Boston, Massachusetts born Director Ezra Benjamin Edelman was asked to make a 5 hour long film about the O.J. Simpson trial for the acclaimed ESPN Films and their 30 for 30 series. The film will literally blow your mind. The 5-part series deals about class, race, and gender in America since the 1960’s
IDFA interview filmmaker Ezra Edelman
Daphne Bunskoek spoke at IDFA with director Ezra Edelman about his documentary series’ O.J. – Made in America. ” Watch the interview here (21:26 min).
When you are born in the 80’s you somewhat remember something about the O.J. Simpson trailer about the legendary TV helicopter chasing Simpson’s car, the integrated broadcast process, the improbable acquittal, even in Europe and the Netherlands. It’s still etched in our collective memory. But what the life of the fallen football star says about American society, how all the events can be seen in the context of ethnicity, social class and the celebrity culture, which is a story that even the most fanatical CNN viewer back then will be overwhelmed with. Masterfully made, and done by documentary filmmaker Ezra Edelman, in a total of 7.5 hours.
Historically meticulous, thematically compelling and deeply human, “O.J.: Made in America” is a masterwork of scholarship, journalism and cinematic art. Mary McNamara – Los Angeles Times.
O.J.: Made in America premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2016, was released in theaters in New York City and Los Angeles in May 2016 and debuted on ABC on June 11, 2016, and aired on ESPN. The documentary has received widespread acclaim.
The first week of January 2017, the Dutch public broadcaster VPRO aired the 5 – episodes daily.
Watch all the 5 episodes below till January 16th, 2017!
“Because I knew it would be so long, I’ve ensured that the film kept its momentum” Ezra Edelman.
One of the leading documentary events in the world, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) interviewed Director Ezra Edelman last november, who before the 2016 O.J.: Made in America mainly produced sports docs. (30 for 30 – Requiem for the Big East, Cutie and the Boxer, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, UFC Primetime, – Jones vs. Evans, 24/7 Cotto/Margarito, The Curious Case of Curt Flood, Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals, Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts of Flatbush) for ESNP.
VPRO’s Elja Looijestijn; ‘Edelman looks tired stated’; two long years, he worked on his film’, and I still have an “emotional hangover”, he says. Interesting sidenote is that Edelman’s mother is a black civil rights activist who has worked for Martin Luther King and established a foundation for underprivileged children. His white father was a professor at the Faculty of Law at Georgetown University.
Edelman almost didn’t make this film. ‘At first I saw nothing in the project. The trail itself already had so much coverage, films and books in the last twenty years. So my first thought was, what can I add as a filmmaker? But I became very interested because the US sports channel ESPN asked me to make a film of five hours. This form seemed very interesting. I could extend the time period and deepen several themes in content and historical area. Then I got really interested, I could tell a story about a city, a police force, the black community in Los Angeles and the dynamics that comes with this, and at the same time deepening the life of the protagonist, which includes more than half a century.’
Edelman interviewed a total of 72 people. Five hours turned out too short; when saw the first cut of nearly eight hours everyone agreed that no scene was too much in the film. The documentary received a roaring welcome in the American press and the public. “Because I knew the film would be so long, I’ve ensured that the film kept it’s the momentum. I knew if the film was boring, people would give up quickly.”
The story starts in the Sixties, when the young daredevil Simpson has a breakthrough on the college football field. Beautiful archive images show how incredibly good Simpson was; (USC vs UCLA 1967 – OJ Simpson 64 Yard TD). But he had more ambitions than just as an athlete, in the years that followed he would become a true american sports legend and Hollywood actor. Simpson never wanted to talk about his skin color; ‘I’m not black, I’m O.J.’ was a well-known statement from him. Until he was accused in 1994 of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. The whole world was looking at the trial. Lawyer Johnny Cochran completely framed the story of Simpson, this to create a symbol for the oppressed black man in America. Despite the overwhelming evidence Simpson in his disadvantage, Simpson was acquitted.
Opposed to one another.
Director Edelman hoovers, as a kind of helicopter over Simpson’s story, and provides us with a totall overview of the story; “I know more of O.J. than you, but I do not really know what is going on, inside him. I sketched a portrait of him through the eyes of the people who knew him. The only way to show how divided the country was, was to clearly outline both sides of the spectrum. I did not wanted to tell how the viewer needed to feel or think. You decide for yourself.”
The process of the Simpson trial really created a huge gap between the white and black population of America, and opposed the races to one another. The black community would rather see O.J. free because of previous events of police brutality against blacks, and get some kind of retribution for the whole colonial history. When we asked Edelman how he sees the story in light of current time and the discussion of race and discrimination, Edelman sighs; “I was told that the movie fits in the current era. But I think he would fit into any time. Racism, police brutality and deprivation of civil rights to black Americans, is something of all times. These days anyone with hasa camera on his phone and can film, and has social media profile to immediately share it. This has fueled the debate and created a movement like Black Lives Matter. “
“It is shocking and sad, but little has changed in the 60 years that covers my documentary.” Ezra Edelman.
Donald Trump presidential election has shocked the documentary filmmaker Ezra Edelman. ‘Since the Simpson trial America hasn’t created gap by two groups of people about this issue; in this case, black and white. They could not imagine that the other felt quite the opposite. And the same has happened with our current elections. People were on two different planets. I find it hard to believe that a majority of my countrymen could elect such a person. But then you realize: oh yes, we live in America, where the hegemony of the white elite is still unmistakable. It is shocking and sad, but it presses you to face the facts: there is little changed in the sixty years that covers my documentary.’ (Source; elja looijestijn- VPRO)