The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Friday new rules for the Oscars going forward, and the one that jumped off the press release is that multi-part documentaries will no longer be eligible.
That means this year’s Oscar winner for best documentary feature, ESPN’s “O.J.: Made in America,” will be the first and last multi-part doc to win the coveted award.
Part of ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, the five-part documentary directed by Ezra Edelman is a groundbreaking work. The nearly eight-hour film (shown in theatres and broadcast as a series) looks at the rise and fall of NFL Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson while also delving into the social and racial unrest in Los Angeles. The two storylines converge when Simpson is found not guilty for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Before the Oscar win, “Made in America” won numerous critics awards, but talk also began to circulate within the industry at the time about whether it should be eligible alongside other feature nonfiction nominees.
Edelman and ESPN have always said since they unveiled the documentary in a marathon screening of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival that the intention was to make a movie. The project just got bigger as Edelman continued to work on it.
Edelman defended the movie’s Oscar eligibility to Business Insider during a Facebook Live interview before Oscar nominations were announced.
“I find it amusing partly because the intention was very pure from the get-go,” Edelman said. “I wanted to make a very long movie and so that it was funded and was commissioned by a television network, ok, so does anything that Netflix does, so does anything that Amazon does, it’s no different. The only thing that’s different about this is it’s long. So for me, that it aired on TV and it’s almost eight hours long, it’s hard if you’re a commercial television company to air something that is eight hours straight, so that’s why it aired the way it did. I think it’s a little bit of a mischaracterization or somewhat unfair because the movie’s the movie, the intent was very pure. By the away it was released in theatres before it was ever on TV. It was built as a theatrical experience.”
To become eligible for the best-documentary category, movies need a weeklong run in theatres in New York City and Los Angeles and must be reviewed by the New York Times and LA Times. ESPN hit that bar for “Made in America.”
However, the new rule will not allow producers of multi-part documentaries to book their projects in theatres for Oscar consideration.
Watch our entire Facebook Live chat with Edelman:
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