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Looking back on the ‘trial of the century’

by

Special To The Japan Times

Everywhere you look these days, it feels like it’s just Trump, Trump and even more Trump. It’s worth taking a moment to recall that 23 years ago many people were just as sick of O.J. Simpson when the amiable American football star-turned-TV/movie celebrity became the main suspect in the brutal murder of his estranged wife, Nicole, and the subsequent trial/media circus marked the beginning of the age of binge coverage.

After all the media overkill, one may wonder if it’s worth re-visiting the “trial of the century.” But with time comes perspective, and director Ezra Edelman offers plenty of that in “O.J.: Made in America,” the nearly eight-hour work that won this year’s Oscar for best documentary feature.

Broken into five chapters, Edelman uses the larger canvas of a TV series (originally aired on ESPN) to take a wide-focus look at Simpson’s rise and fall. The irony that emerges is that he largely sought to erase the definition of blackness from his life — up until the point his lawyers play the race card. Edelman’s cast of real-life characters could easily fuel a season of “The Wire” and the documentary is full of moments both surreal, such as the highway “chase” where crowds of onlookers gather to merrily cheer on a suspected killer, and horrifying, like Nicole’s desperate call to 911 as her husband screams in the background.

The Simpson case took on such magnitude in the public imagination that it became less about the flaws of one man, and more of a bitter, divisive referendum on racial injustice in America. As ever, the past is a mirror on the present.

“O.J.: Made in America” is now available on www.amazon.com