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89th Oscars Backstage Interview Transcript: Documentary (Feature)

CATEGORY: Documentary (Feature)
SPEECH BY: Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow



Q. Congratulations.  Having been a reporter who covered Rodney King and the three Simpson trials, I was quite taken by your documentary.  I want to know, though, what in you felt the connection enough to bring about this massive effort, this documentary, and how old were you when Rodney King happened?  Were you a young child?  Is it part of your guts, in other words?
A. (Ezra Edelman)  I guess I'm not as young as I look.  I was in high school, and that was a really seminal event for me.  I grew up in Washington, D.C., and when that happened, it was an awakening.  It was sort of a loss of innocence as far as how innocent black men are treated in our ‑‑ you know, by the police and then ultimately in our justice ‑‑ criminal justice system.  And so, look, everything about this story, you know ‑‑ the story is what it is.  It's an incredible tale about our country, but, you know, I think I definitely channelled who I am, my world view, my relationship to O.J. as a person before those murders ever happened, but also my experience of growing up where I did with the parents I have and seeing the world the way I did.  So it's hard to tell you exactly where it came from, but I'm sure it's ‑‑ some of it is all in there, yeah.

Q. Like many other reporters in this room, I followed every second of O.J., reported on it, but I never dreamt that this many years later it would be a conversational point.
Can you ‑‑ can you understand this movie, the TV movie, why it ‑‑ we know the outcome, why it became such a topic again?  So, in a sense, current again?
A. (Ezra Edelman)  Well, history is the present.  It's past, but it's present.  And 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, you know, 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.  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.  It has everything.
     And so I think that's why it's always going to be something that fascinates us, and I think there is a lack of resolution, considering what happened with the trial and when many people ‑‑ the majority of people saw one thing, how it ended up was something else, and so I think there is always going to be a sense of intrigue surrounding that story.  And so that's my...

Q. What were some of the tougher interviews to get for the documentary?
A. (Ezra Edelman)  I mean they're ‑‑ honestly, we interviewed 72 people.  Many of them were tough.  This was a story that a lot of people didn't want to revisit.  They hadn't talked about it in 20 years.  There are many people that wouldn't speak to us.  I think that the members of the prosecution and of the jury were the hardest.  They, you know ‑‑ the prosecution, I think, got burned by the media.  They were also on the wrong side of the case in terms of winning or losing, and they had been reluctant to talk about this.  So that three of the four main lawyers trusted us enough to participate in the film, you know, meant a great deal, and as the jurors themselves ‑‑ again, the jurors have been persecuted over the years for, you know, their role in this case, and many people feel that they somehow didn't fulfill their duty, that they ‑‑ that Carrie and Yolanda, two of the 12 agreed to talk to us, was very courageous, so... 

Q. Hi.  You said you spoke to some of the jurors and people involved.  Did any of them indicate that any of the things they may have seen from what you talked about in the documentary might have changed the outcome of the case?  Because it just seemed like there was a lot of things that were focused on, that if you knew the story the way that you told it, and the way many of us knew it before the trial, that we would not have seen O.J. Simpson as a victim of racism as was portrayed in the trial.
A. (Ezra Edelman)  Well, I'm not sure I completely understand your question, because one of the jurors in the film does talk about the influence of her feelings about Rodney King and the history of abuse within the criminal justice system that she was influenced by more so than the evidence itself in the case.
And so I don't know if that answers your question.

Q. We talked with you on the Carpet, and had a very interesting conversation.  Your mother, in particular, both of your parents have been freedom fighters and very active in this movement for a long time.  What do you think they're going to say about the Oscar, and what did they say about this documentary when you finished it?
A. (Ezra Edelman)  Well, first of all, I'll say you get up on stage and it's an experience like no other, and I had some plans, and I was going to do something I rarely do, which is thank my parents.  And they deserve it.  They have spent their whole life working tirelessly to make this a more just and humane society, and I feel ‑‑ I just ‑‑ I hope this honors them.
A. (Caroline Waterlow) I can attest to the fact that they were very proud of him.  And they attended our screening at Sundance, and I know they were very proud.



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