Ezra Edelman's mega-film on Simpson also heading to Viceland channel
The most acclaimed documentary of the year is about to reach a wider audience.
O.J.: Made in America, directed by Ezra Edelman, will return to theaters for a limited engagement; it opens at the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills today (Friday), and is set for the Cinema Village in New York beginning December 30.
For those who can't make it to either of those locales over the holidays, there is another option: ESPN Films and Vice Media have announced a deal to air the 464-minute documentary on the Viceland cable channel on New Year's Day, from 4pm ET to midnight (with two intermissions).
Me and O.J. are very, very, very, very, very, very different people.
Edelman's film explores the cultural and social context of Simpson's life, career and "trial of the century" on double murder charges. O.J. has won a staggering number of awards already including best documentary from the National Board of Review, Chicago Film Critics, New York Film Critics Circle, the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Gotham Awards the Critics' Choice Documentary Awards.
Additionally, the film won a duPont Award and a special award from the AFI. On December 9 O.J.: Made in America claimed the IDA award for best feature documentary, one of nonfiction film's highest honors.
At the IDA Awards Nonfictionfilm.com spoke with Edelman about how he's dealing with all of the attention coming his way.
"One day at a time. Look, it's an incredible experience to have people respond to your work positively. And if what comes from that is people wanting to discuss your film with you or discuss your work with you, that's truly a privilege. But as someone who is not used to doing things like this -- talking to the press, meeting people, being at events -- and frankly, maybe, not disposed to that from a personality standpoint, it's challenging. But it's a life experience like anything else. Being in the middle of it it's both fun but it's an endurance test."
We asked Edelman if finding himself in the public eye all of a sudden gave him any fresh insight into Simpson, who flourished in the limelight.
"To be honest my brain does not travel to a place of putting myself or connecting myself with anything to do with O.J.'s plight," Edelman said. He continued, Simpson was "so at home in the spotlight and naturally craving of attention and at ease with talking in public... For me, having spent time working on a film about him, those tremendous gifts that he has versus someone like myself who is interested in making the films that I make as well as I can and -- while I hope everyone likes them -- this [public] part of it is not necessarily what I signed up for. So in that way it's just one further example of how me and O.J. are very, very, very, very, very, very different people."
We inquired if Edelman had found one or more of the awards he has received to date to be especially meaningful.
"Honestly, it's all gratifying. The fact that you have a desire to make a film and tell a story as well, thoroughly, completely, engagingly, educationally as possible and when on the other end of it people engage with the thing that you worked so hard to make and seem to have not just have been entertained, not just informed, but have their perspectives about something that they spent a lot of time of their lives already watching, absorbing and thinking about and they tell you, 'Well, I didn't understand what that was all about and now I'm looking at this a new way," that's extremely gratifying... It would be slightly hubristic for me to be like, 'Well, that was the idea.' Well, it was a little bit of the idea.
"But hearing from people saying, 'I learned so much. I never knew this history,' it also validates the approach of historical storytelling and the need for it in understanding who we are and where we came from to give us a better sense of the crazy times that we live in. So in the way that people have taken the time to watch something that is very long and in some ways could feel like maybe you're taking your medicine, but they're coming out on the other end and they're feeling edified -- that's gratifying."
O.J.: Made in America is one of 15 films to make the shortlist for the Academy Award for best documentary feature. Voting on the final five Oscar nominees for this and all other categories opens January 5 and closes January 13. The nominees will be revealed Tuesday, January 24 -- in the midst of the Sundance Film Festival, where O.J.: Made in America premiered in 2016.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.