A striking documentary series that is simultaneously terrifying and thought-provoking, O.J.: Made in America is the conceptual masterpiece that deserves to take home the Oscar for Best Documentary. Weaving pertinent problems like racial divisions, police incompetency, domestic violence, and celebrity heroism, it is a deeply captivating and often harrowing cinematic experience.
At times, the series felt unbelievable. The moment it was proved that the blood in O.J.’s car matched the blood of the two victims, when it was shown that the footprints at the crime scene matched a pair of rare designer shoes that O.J. owned, and the lack of a convincing alibi presented by Simpson, it was hard to grasp the fact that he was found not guilty. After a trial that lasted over eight months, it was impossible to believe that the jury came to a decision in less than four hours.
Every episode hits the viewer with intense, gripping detail. The in-depth interviews of jurors, the head prosecutor, the family of one of the victims, and friends of Nicole and O.J. bring you into the trial and into the minds of those involved. Marcia Clark, the prosecutor, translated an immense feeling of frustration in her recounting of the trial, making it clear that she felt like the influence of race and celebrity fogged the judgement of the jury.
When Nicole Brown calls the police to her home during one of O.J.’s terrifying fits of rage, the officer that arrives asks if she’d like to file a report while O.J. is standing there with them, neglecting the fact that her fear of retaliation would be heightened in such a scenario. She told her friends that O.J. was abusing her, and many knew that he was violent. But no one really helped her. The police, the couple’s mutual friends, neighbors and even family members all stood to the side, refusing to intervene either due to society’s underlying disbelief of women, their own personal fears or due to O.J.’s image as an American hero. The documentary is able to put all of this detail into a comprehensible narrative, touching on all of these issues without stating them directly.
The murder trial began with the infamous slow-speed chase in O.J.’s white bronco, where at times it seemed as if he would take his own life while on the phone with police. During the chase, fans of the former football star stood on highway overpasses to cheer him on. The whole scene seemed unreal. When the trial ended, and the verdict came out as not guilty, there were hoards of people, again, cheering in the streets. So many people believed that O.J. was set up that they forgot the fact that two people were brutally murdered, with the killer still on the loose.
As one of the best cinematic projects in recent history, O.J.: Made in America deserves acclaim and awards for its excellence. Not only is it impeccably made, but it takes the viewer back to the courtroom, it makes one feel as if they are living the trial in real time. The problems it addresses are timely, and force America to look at its past as well as its present to determine what is fair and what is not. And in the end, is anything in this country really fair at all?