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O.J.: Made in America director dedicates Oscars win to Nicole Brown Simpson, Ronald Goldman

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M. Osterreicher/Courtesy of ESPN Films

America’s interest in the O.J. Simpson murder trial has led to an Oscar.

Months after FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson racked up multiple Emmy Awards, Ezra Edelman’s documentary O.J.: Made in America has followed in its footsteps, nabbing the Academy Award for best documentary. Producer Caroline Waterlow shared the win with Edelman.

“First of all, this is incredible,” Edelman said in his acceptance speech. “I want to thank Caroline Waterlow for going on this journey with me. Yes, give it up. I want to thank the Academy for acknowledging this untraditional film.”

After praising ESPN for airing the documentary, Edelman dedicated the award to Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, the victims in the murder case. “I wouldn’t be standing here if it weren’t for two people who couldn’t be here with us: Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman,” he said. “This is for them and their families. It is also for others — the victims of police violence, police brutality, racially motivated violence, and criminal injustice. I am honored to accept this award on all of their behalf.”

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Made in America is the panoramic story of Simpson’s life, from his early success as a college football star in Los Angeles to his famous criminal trial and on through his strange post-acquittal afterlife in Florida and Las Vegas. “History is the present. It’s past, but it’s present,” Edelman said of the project in the Oscars press room. “I can’t speak for the FX series, but I know that when we were offered the chance to make this movie, it was very clear that the story that was covered and told 20 some odd years ago, we were missing something and we were missing the context to have us understand how we got to that moment, how we ended up where we did after that trial. There was room for more of this story to be told and that people have responded the way they did to the film I think speaks to that.”

Edelman went on to share what O.J.: Made in America means to him. “It’s an American story about [these] fundamental American themes: race, celebrity, class, gender, domestic abuse, the criminal justice system, the media. It’s sports, sex, murder,” Edelman said. “It has everything, so I think that’s why it’s always going to be something that fascinates us, and I think there’s a lack of resolution considering what happened with the trial. And many people, the majority of people saw one thing, how it ended up was something else. I think there’s always going to be a sense of intrigue surrounding that story.”

He also provided insight on the making of O.J.: Made in America, which required interviews with 72 people. “Many of them were tough,” said Edelman. “This was a story that a lot of people didn’t want to revisit. They hadn’t talked about it in 20 years. There were many people that wouldn’t speak to us.”

Since the film first premiered as a five-night miniseries on ESPN, there was some debate about whether it really was a film or just a TV show. EW TV critic Jeff Jensen named it our Best TV Show of 2016, but fellow staff member Joe McGovern argued that, differences of platform aside, Made in America was a “haunting, 7-hour-and-47-minute Dickensian epic” that deserved film awards recognition. Clearly, Oscar voters agreed. In the months leading up to the ceremony, the film was screened in theaters around the country as a day-long viewing experience.

In scoring the win, Made in America beat out rivals like Ava DuVernay’s 13th, the James Baldwin biopic I Am Not Your Negro, Fire at Sea, and Life, Animated.