The public thirst for all things O.J. Simpson – thanks to FX’s remarkable American Crime Story, which concluded its 10-week run on Tuesday – is strong. And ESPN is striking at just the right time with a long-in-the-works documentary that takes an even deeper dive into the life and times, and rise and fall, of Simpson himself.
In 2010, the network’s 30 for 30 documentary series presented an episode titled “June 17, 1994,” which chronicled the dramatic day and night of Simpson’s infamous white Bronco chase. But that event, and the subsequent trial, is only a piece of the sprawling, vivid mosaic on display in O.J.: Made in America. Directed by 30 for 30 veteran Ezra Edelman, the seven-and-half-hour series will premiere with the opening episode on ABC on June 11 at 9 p.m. ET.
ESPN will then air and re-air the film in five parts beginning June 14. In addition, at the Tribeca Film Festival, the whole documentary (which producers intend to submit for Oscar consideration), will screen in a one-day marathon on April 23, followed by a Q&A with Edelman on April 24.
“This is not a film simply focused on the murders or the trial,” Edelman tells Entertainment Weekly. In fact, the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman do not occur until the film’s third hour.
“It is a much bigger story,” Edelman continues, “one that explores O.J.’s life and how race and his pursuit of celebrity shaped it while at the same time documenting the racial dynamics of L.A. and the relationship between its police force and black citizens – a relationship thrust front and center into the discussion of the murders, and one that proved a vital determinant in the outcome of the trial.”
In this trailer, you can sense the scope of Made in America. Only a fraction of the two-minute-and-10-second preview deals with the murder case, though there is a haunting image shown of the blood from the Bundy crime scene washing down the sidewalk. Mainly, we see O.J. in the different phases of his life, negotiating through the world around him.
And provocatively, the trailer employs two different versions of the spiritual song “Sinnerman,” which is about a guilty person attempting to escape the Lord’s wrath, with its richly meaningful lyric – “Oh, Sinnerman/Where ya gonna run to?” – playing over shots of Simpson sprinting on the football field, in Hertz commercials, and finally from a female heckler, screaming at him, “You ugly ass murderer!”
The first version heard is by Danish duo Nina and Fredrik from 1961; the second is Nina Simone’s furious, immortal 10-minute cut, recorded in 1965. It might be the one tune that The People v. O.J. Simpson mastermind (and music cue genius) Ryan Murphy regrets not including in his series.
Check out the debut trailer above.