"O.J.: Made in America" is hardly just about O.J. Simpson, which is what makes it so powerful.
Director Ezra Edelman has used Simpson's rise and fall to examine the troubled relationship African-Americans in Los Angles have had with the police for decades, and he does so with moving storytelling.
In part one, we see the Watts riots, a powerful moment in showing the disconnect between citizens and police, but in part two, which aired Tuesday, we are not just shown the infamous Rodney King beating and the riot that followed when police officers were found not guilty. We also see other incidents in which the actions of police in the black community didn't get the press of the King beating but helped build the powder keg that would ignite following the acquittal of those particular officers.
There's the 1979 Eula Love incident in which a dispute over a $69 gas bill led to two officers emptying both of their six-shot revolvers on Love, killing her. Then 13 days after King was beaten by police, 15-year-old Latasha Harlins, following an altercation with a Korean-American store owner named Soon Ja Du, was shot and killed by Du. Du only received 5 years probation and 400 hours of community service, and no prison time, for the death.
It's important that Edleman educates us about these landmark moments in LA because to tell the O.J. Simpson story, you also have to explore the community not far from his home (and how he kept a blind eye to black residents until he needed them).
By part two, Simpson is retired from the NFL and living comfortably far away from any police brutality. In fact, he's built a great relationship with the cops in Brentwood, where he now lives with his new wife, Nicole.
That relationship with the police would come to benefit Simpson when Nicole started making 911 calls about Simpson beating her.
In one instance in 1989, an officer comes to Simpson's estate to find Nicole huddling in the bushes, barely clothed and beaten, telling the officer, "He's going to kill me..."
It wasn't the first time. It was actually the eighth time officers had responded to Nicole's calls to come to the house. The officer of the 1989 call recounts the incident for the documentary, saying that Simpson fled in his car. Thanks to his relationships at the LAPD and some sweet-talking to Nicole, Simpson only had to do 120 hours of community service.
Nicole even spoke directly to the CEO of Hertz to let him know that all the stories about Simpson being a wife-beater were false.
So as Edleman builds the narrative about why the black community decided to let LA burn once more following the Rodney King beating verdict, he's also showing how Simpson had escaped the color of his skin, at least in one sense, by getting a slap on the wrist for his abuse (when the average black man in LA would face much worse).
YouTube/ESPNBut things only get more chilling.
Simpson's infidelity is less hidden. Once he even says he's with another woman because Nicole has gotten "too fat" from her pregnancy.
Nicole finally separates with Simpson, having an on-and-off relationship with another football great (and Simpson friend) Marcus Allen.
There's even a recollection in part two of a former acquaintance of Nicole's, who describes how Simpson once showed up at Nicole's house and revealed that he spied on Nicole and the man having relations the night before.
Simpson is now unhinged. For a man who craves control, not being able to have Nicole under his spell any longer has made him unstable — as we can hear in those earlier horrific 911 calls in the movie.
Nicole divorces Simpson on May 22, 1994. Less than a month later, she and Ron Goldman are found dead on her front steps.
Part three of "O.J.: Made in America" airs on ESPN on Wednesday.
OJ Simpson in court
OJ Simpson in court
LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: O.J. Simpson (L) talks with attorney Robert Shapiro during an 18 January court hearing in Simpson's double-murder case in Los Angeles, California. Judge Lance Ito ruled that jurors may hear some domestic violence allegations against Simpson. Opening statements in the trial were moved to 23 January. (COLOR KEY: Brown wall) AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 23: O.J. Simpson's children from his first marriage, Jason (L), Arnelle (R) and cousin Terri Baker (C) appear in court 23 January in Los Angeles as the former football great and television celebrity's double-murder trial is expected to begin with opening statements. O.J. Simpson is accused of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman on 12 June 1994. (COLOR KEY: Collar (L) is red) AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read RICK MEYER/AFP/Getty Images)
Fred Goldman and Patti Glass Goldman, the father and stepmother of murder victim Ronald Goldman, listen to prosecutor Christopher Darden as he delivers opening statements during the O.J. Simpson murder trial, January 24, Los Angeles, California. (Photo by AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 23: O.J. Simpson (R) looks up during a 23 January court hearing in Los Angeles, Ca, as attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. reviews doucuments in what should be opening day in Simpson's double-murder trial begins. Several evidenciary issues remain before the trial will be heard in front of the jury. (COLOR KEY: Brown wall.) AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read POO/AFP/Getty Images)
Deputy district attorney Marcia Clark gestures as she addresses the jury for the prosecution's opening statements in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson, Los Angeles, California, January 24, 1995. Simpson was accused of the 12 June 1994 murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman. (Photo by Myung J. Chun/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 24: Judge Lance Ito looks at prosecutor Marcia Clark as he admonishes her for argumentative behavior during her opening statements to the jury in the O.J. Simpson murder trial 24 January in Los Angeles, CA. Ito ended the hearing later, after learning that the court video camera viewed live images of two jurors. Ito may remove cameras from the courtroom because of the incident. (COLOR KEY: Brown wall) AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read POO/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Lead prosecutor Marcia Clark (L) talks with fellow prosecutor Christopher Darden during court proceedings 26 January 1995 in Los Angeles. The OJ Simpson trial was delayed by the hospitalization of prosecutor William Hodgman and continuing fray over the defense's failure to turn over the names of its anticipated witnesses. (COLOR KEY: Wall is brown.) AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read POO/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 31: A picture taken by the Los Angeles Police Department on 01 January 1989 and projected on a screen in the courtroom 31 January 1995 shows Nicole Brown Simpson after her 911 call reporting a spousal abuse episode that defendant O.J. Simpson eventually pleaded no contest to. The picture was displayed by the prosecution during questioning of LAPD Detective John Edwards at the double murder trial of Simpson. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read POO/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 9: Prosecutors in the O.J. Simpson murder trial Marcia Clark(L) and Christopher Darden(2nd L) show a display of a blood trail 09 February at Nicole Simpson's condominium to the jury and Los Angeles Police Department(LAPD) officer Robert Riske(R) during testimony in Superior Court in Los Angeles. Riske was the first police officer to arrive at the scene where Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered. (COLOR KEY:Blue chart.) AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read POO/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 15: Defense attorneys Johnnie Cochran Jr. (R) and Robert Shapiro talk about the prosecution's announcement in court 15 February that the blood found on Nicole Brown Simpon's Bundy residence gate genetically matches that of murder defendant O.J. Simpson. (COLOR KEY: Red in Cochran's tie). AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read POO/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 15: Double murder defendant O.J. Simpson puts on one of the bloody gloves as a Los Angeles Sheriff's Deputy looks on during the O.J. Simpson murder trial 15 June. One of the gloves was found at the murder scene, while the other was found at Simpson's state. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read SAM MIRCOVICH/AFP/Getty Images)
This 21 June 1995 file photo shows former US football player and actor O.J. Simpson looking at a new pair of Aris extra-large gloves that prosecutors had him put on during his double-murder trial in Los Angeles. Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch announced 20 November 2006 the cancellation of a controversial book and television interview involving O.J. Simpson being planned by his News Corp company. AFP PHOTO/Vince BUCCI/FILES (Photo credit should read VINCE BUCCI/AFP/Getty Images)
O.J. Simpson tries on a leather glove allegedly used in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman during testimony in Simpson's murder trial on June 15, 1995 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Lee Celano/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 21: O.J. Simpson shows the jury a new pair of Aris extra-large gloves, similar to the gloves found at the Bundy and Rockingham crime scene 21 June 1995, during his double murder trial in Los Angeles,CA. Deputy Sheriff Roland Jex(L) and Prosecutor Christopher Darden (R) look on. (Photo credit should read VINCE BUCCI/AFP/Getty Images)