POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD
Orenthal James Simpson is a person who has been documented, written about to death. If you type OJ Simpson into YouTube about five different documentaries pop up about him and the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. It is amazing the fascination that we have with him after all these years. It makes you question; Do we need another documentary about him? With this review let’s find out.
With a plot summary from IMDB, O.J.: Made in America is about “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, polarise, and develop new chapters”. The documentary is directed by Ezra Edelman (Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals, 30 for 30).
First things first, I have to admit that I was blown away by this documentary, it is truly amazing, and a great feat in film making. What amazes me the most about this documentary is the footage that they had access to and the people they interviewed. One of the people that stands out the most is Mark Fuhrman. For those who don’t know, Mark Fuhrman is the detective who testified in the murder trial against OJ. However, after tapes came to light with Mark using racist phrases against the African American community he was recalled to the stand and questioned again. He pleaded his 5th amendment privilege to all the questions including one about planting evidence. This was one of the biggest turning points in the trial along with the glove fitting. I am extremely surprised that he decided to appear on screen. However it gave more insight into that segment of the OJ story and hats off to the filmmakers for getting him on screen. It’s a shame that Christopher Darden declined to appear in the film. It would have been fascinating to get his view point and how he felt working for the prosecution. Furthermore I am glad that they gave Nicole and Ron a voice and did not make it just about OJ. Often in these documentaries they are forgotten about and put in the back seat. The hardest part about watching the trial segment of the documentary is the crime scene photos of their murder. The sheer brutality and the rage of their murder does make you feel sick.
With the documentary split into five parts, the director does a good job in presenting Simpsons as this good guy. After the first two parts of the documentary I actually really liked OJ, there is a charm about him and he puts you under his spell. Furthermore he does it in a way that you can’t fall for it; he’ll do little things such as sign every autograph and smile a lot. He knew how to market himself and present himself as a brand, he did everything to protect it and build it. It makes it even more appalling when they show the real OJ. He’s such a phony and once after he is found not guilty in the trial, his image never recovers and it makes the story even more enthralling. You see him go lower and lower in the later years of his life.
What stands out for me in the documentary isn’t just the OJ story. There is a bigger story intertwined into the film. And that story is police brutality, racial motivated violence and criminal injustice. I was shocked by what was shown onscreen. The injustice and brutality shown by the police really hit me, how it was acceptable behaviour. One injustice that sticks out is the death of Latasha Harlins. Latasha Harlins was shot in the head by a Korean shop worker after an argument over a bottle of orange juice. The Korean shop worker was only fined $500 and sentenced to five years’ probation and 400 hours of community service. I had to pause the film, because of pure astonishment. How can they let this happen!? This is one of the many injustices that are shown in the film and if you get a chance to see this documentary watch it just to inform yourself about the problems the African American community has had with the LAPD.
Overall I’d rate this as a must see film (As it is not being screened in the cinema). Don’t be put off by its 7 hour and 47 minute running time as you’ll be locked in from start to finish. If you have an opportunity to view it you can see it on BBC iPlayer for a limited time. It’s a shame they didn’t make the film more of an event and broadcast it on BBC1 over a number of days or weeks. However hopefully this will change after its well-deserved Oscar win.