It is the defining cultural tale of modern America - a saga of race, celebrity, media, violence, and the criminal justice system. And two decades after its unforgettable climax, it continues to fascinate, polarize, and even, yes, develop new chapters. Now, the producers of ESPN's award-winning "30 for 30" have made it the subject of their first documentary-event and most ambitious project yet. From Peabody and Emmy-award winning director Ezra Edelman, it's "O.J.: Made in America," a 10-hour multi-part production coming summer of 2016. To most observers, it's a story that began the night Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were brutally murdered outside her Brentwood apartment. But as "O.J." lays bare, to truly grasp the significance of what happened not just that night, but the epic chronicle to follow, one has to travel back to a much different, much earlier origin point, at not the end, but the beginning of the 20th century, when African-Americans began migrating to California ...Written by
Fascinating story plays like a Shakespearean Tragedy
At the time, I didn't understand the fascination with the O.J. Simpson trial. I remember the weird slow-speed police chase of the bronco, which was so peculiar that I couldn't stop watching, but after that I never watched the trial, or read news of the trial, because I barely new who Simpson was and I thought of it as just some salacious celebrity murder case. I had no doubt Simpson was guilty - I mean, he'd gone on the run and been chased down by the cops! - but I didn't have any interest in the process of his being convicted, didn't care about Kato Kaelin or Judge Ito, or any of that.
Then he got off, and it turned out that the case was a huge one about the shocking difference in how white and black America saw U.S. justice.
This documentary puts that trial in context. First, it explains why Simpson was so beloved, portraying his phenomenal sports success and his subsequent celebrity career. It also puts the trial in the context both of the Rodney King beating and of a case I'd never heard of where an Asian woman got no jail time for shooting a black girl in the back of the head.
For white people like me, this was a simple case of a celebrity who savagely murdered his ex. But viewed through the lens of a justice system that seemed built entirely for white people, the trial was something else entirely, and Simpson's pricey lawyers took advantage of that.
The full story of Simpson, from his glory days to his final fall, is like a Shakespeare tragedy, with a shining hero undone by his own darkness. It can also be seen as the story of a cold-stone psychopath who was given a pass for continually beating his wife simply because he was a celebrity with a winning smile.
An excellent documentary, and also a perfect companion piece for the recent TV miniseries, The People vs. O.J. Simpson: An American Crime Story. Between the two, I have now learned a great deal about a case I had no interest in while it was happening.
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