O.J.: Made in America

O.J.: Made in America Information

O.J.: Made in America is a 2016 American documentary film produced and directed by Ezra Edelman for ESPN Films and their 30 for 30 series. The documentary explores two of America's greatest fixations - race and celebrity - through the life of O. J. Simpson, from his emerging football career at the University of Southern California and why America fell in love with him, to being accused of murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman, and his subsequent acquittal, and how he was convicted and imprisoned for another crime 13 years later. 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.


Through interviews, new footage, and archival audio and video, O.J.: Made in America traces the life and career of O. J. Simpson, starting with his arrival at the University of Southern California as an emerging football superstar and ending with his incarceration in 2007 for robbery. Throughout the documentary, Simpson's life - the football success, television career, relationship with Nicole Brown, the domestic abuse, Nicole and Ron Goldman's murder, the trial - runs parallel to the larger narrative of the city of Los Angeles, which serves as host to mounting racial tensions and a volatile relationship between the city's police department and the African American community.


Development of a documentary based on Simpson for ESPN Films began in 2007, eventually leading to the hiring of Brett Morgen to create the film, June 17th, 1994, also part of the 30 for 30 series. Released in June 2010, June 17th, 1994 only uses archive footage from several noteworthy sporting events on June 17, 1994, to chronicle the events of the police chase of O. J. Simpson. ESPN Films executive producer Connor Schell said, "If you are going to do O. J. Simpson, you are going to cover June 1994 to Oct. 1995"?it is unavoidable. But if you are interested in things that came before it and after it, then it has to be longer than the traditional two-hour form." This led to a meeting between Schell and director Ezra Edelman in February 2014 where Schell expressed interest in creating a five-hour documentary on Simpson. Edelman initially declined, as he felt "there was nothing left to say about him." Edelman eventually agreed to the project, realizing that Simpson's trial did not have to be the focus, or if he was innocent or guilty, rather, Edelman "could use that canvas to tell a deeper story about race in America, about the city of Los Angeles, the relationship between the black community and the police, and who O. J. was and his rise to celebrity. That"?s the story I wanted to tell."

Throughout the 18-month process of conception to completion, Edelman conducted 72 interviews for the documentary, "including key players from the prosecution (Marcia Clark, Gil Garcetti and Bill Hodgman), Simpson"?s defense team (F. Lee Bailey, Carl E. Douglas and Barry Scheck), childhood friends of Simpson, jurors from the criminal trial, former LAPD detectives involved in the case (Mark Fuhrman and Tom Lange) and African-American civil rights activists," and people who could speak on behalf of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson. Edelman also reached out to Simpson through a letter, which was never answered; he had also hoped to include Simpson"?s first wife, Marguerite, who could not be contacted, and former L.A. County district attorney Christopher Darden, who declined participation. Despite envisioning the project as a five-hour documentary, the final film was screened to ESPN Films executives at 7.5 hours in length, to which Schell said they would figure out the programming end, as they were "going to give Ezra the time he needs to tell this story." The initial plan was to break the film into three parts - "everything leading up to the murder and then the trial and then everything after the trial" - before a five-part format was settled on.

In January 2016, ESPN Films announced O.J.: Made in America for part of their 30 for 30 series. It was also revealed to be premiering at the Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2016, along with a theatrical release in New York City and Los Angeles on May 20, 2016, and a debut on television in June 2016.


O.J.: Made in America premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2016, and was also screened at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 23, 2016, and the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto on April 29 and 30. The documentary had a theatrical run at Cinema Village in New York City and the Laemmle Theatre in Santa Monica, California from May 20-26, 2016. The first part debuted on television on June 11, 2016 on ABC, followed by parts two through five airing on ESPN on June 14, 15, 17 and 18, respectively. The entire documentary was made available on WatchESPN on June 14, 2016, after the airing of the second part. In subsequent airings of the fourth part, graphic crime scene photos were blurred by ESPN, due to the re-airings taking "place at various times". The images were not blurred in the original airing or in the version available "on demand to viewers online or via cable VOD services."


The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 100% approval rating, with an average rating of 9.7/10, based on 27 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "O.J.; Made in America paints a balanced and thorough portrait of the American dream juxtaposed with tragedy and executed with power and skill." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 95 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".

Kenneth Turan and Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times both praised O.J.: Made in America, with Turan stating, the film "is an exceptional 7 1/2-hour documentary, so perceptive, empathetic and compelling you want it never to end," with McNamara adding, "Historically meticulous, thematically compelling and deeply human, O.J.: Made in America is a masterwork of scholarship, journalism and cinematic art." Sports Illustrateds Richard Deitsch called the film "the best 30 for 30 documentary [ESPN] has ever produced. It is thrilling and uncompromising filmmaking... and it will make you look at the most famous murder case in United States history with fresh eyes and under a larger prism." Brian Tallerico, writing for RogerEbert.com, awarded the film four stars out of four, stating, "Even in this era of 'Peak TV,' it"?s rare to see something as essential and momentous as ESPN's OJ: Made in America... Ezra Edelman"?s stunningly ambitious, eight-hour documentary is a masterpiece, a refined piece of investigative journalism that places the subject it illuminates into the broader context of the end of the 20th century... I would have watched it for another eight hours... It"?s that good."

Daniel Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter said, "O.J.: Made in America is a provocative, intelligent and thorough documentary that tears along at an impressive clip given its length, with tragedy around every corner. The first miniseries to air under the ESPN Films and 30 for 30 banners, it also instantly takes its place among the banner's best efforts," while Hank Stuever for The Washington Post called it "nothing short of a towering achievement." Varietys Brian Lowry added, "even in the annals of ESPN"?s "30 for 30"? docs, [Ezra Edelman has created] what feels like a master opus "? one that deals with the nexus of race, celebrity and sports, and the strange juxtaposition of a figure who prided himself on transcending color, yet ultimately relied upon it when charged with the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole, and Ronald Goldman."

A. O. Scott of The New York Times felt the film "has the grandeur and authority of the best long-form nonfiction. If it were a book, it could sit on the shelf alongside The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer and the great biographical works of Robert Caro. It"?s very much a film, though, a feat of tireless research, dogged interviewing and skillful editing." However, Scott felt a "significant blind spot" for the film was its "predominance of male voices among the interview subjects, and the narrowness of the film"?s discussion of domestic violence... [T]he film, which so persuasively treats law enforcement racism as a systemic problem, can"?t figure out how to treat violence against women with the same kind of rigor or nuance", adding that "O. J. Simpson is viewed as a symbol" while "Nicole Brown Simpson"?s fate, in contrast, is treated as an individual tragedy, and there seems to be no political vocabulary available to the filmmakers to understand what happened to her. The deep links between misogyny and American sports culture remain unexamined."

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