O.J.: Made in America, directed by Ezra Edelman, produced by Caroline Waterlow, and distributed by ESPN Films, has won the Academy Award for Best Documentary.
The seven-and-a-half-hour film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of last year, and debuted in theatrical limited release last May. The documentary incorporates 72 new interviews with archival news footage to chronicle the entire career of O.J. Simpson, starting with his first season playing football at the University of Southern California and ending with his infamous 1995 murder trial. The documentary sets all of this in the broad context of American sports culture, pop culture, and systemic racism, as well as within the rise of reality TV and recent calls for criminal justice reform.
This is the first Academy Award nomination and win for the Brooklyn-based director, who is best known for several HBO Sports documentaries, including the Emmy-winning 2007 film Brooklyn Dodgers: Ghosts of Flatbush. In his speech, Edelman thanked the Academy for acknowledging an “unconventional film,” and dedicated the award to the families of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, as well as victims of police brutality.
This year’s other nominated films included: I Am Not Your Negro, Raoul Peck’s adaptation of the unfinished James Baldwin manuscript Remember This House; Ava DuVernay’s Netflix-distributed documentary 13th, which explores issues of mass incarceration and racial discrimination in the justice system; Italian director Gianfranco Rusi’s chronicling of the European migrant crisis, Fire at Sea; and Roger Ross William’s Life, Animated, an adaptation of Ron Suskind's 2014 memoir about how his son used Disney movies to cope with some of his autism-related communication issues.
The winner in this category is generally less predictable than some of the other major awards, as a Golden Globe hasn’t been awarded for Best Documentary since 1976.