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iCMFF19 - Documentaries

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iCMFF19 - Documentaries

#1

Post by outdoorcats » November 10th, 2019, 1:59 am

Welcome to the 2019 iCheckMovies Film Festival!

Festival Dates: Nov. 9-Dec. 2

Please rate the films the films you've seen on a scale from 1-10 to help contribute to this year's Audience Award.
(Ratings are due by the end of day on December 2nd EST to be counted)

This is the thread where all users can rate and discuss the films in this year's three International sections. We're looking forward to everyone in the iCM Forum community taking part!

Anyone who watches all films in this section by the end date can also help pick the jury award for this section.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail dir. Steve James. 2016, 88 min. :imdb::ICM:
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, only one bank was prosecuted for wrongdoing: a small, independent Chinatown bank in New York City.
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Cuba and the Cameraman dir. Jon Alpert. 2017, 113 min. :imdb::ICM:
Alpert depicts life in Cuba for three struggling families over the course of 45 years, from the cautious optimism of the early 1970s to the harrowing 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union and the 2016 death of Fidel Castro.
Image

Ex Libris: The New York Public Library dir. Frederick Wiseman. 2017, 197 min. :imdb::ICM:
If you think libraries are only about checking out books, this new documentary from master Frederick Wiseman is essential viewing and may leave you more idealistic about the future's potential.
Image

LA 92 dir. Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin. 2017, 114 min. :imdb::ICM:
Directors Lindsay and Martin reconstruct the riots sparked by the brutal beating of Rodney King through powerfully edited and rarely seen archival footage.
Image

Shirkers dir. Sandi Tan. 2018, 97 min. :imdb::ICM:
Cinephile and outsider artist Sandi Tan investigates a bizarre mystery involving an unfinished movie she attempted to make in the early '90s.
Image
Last edited by outdoorcats on November 17th, 2019, 12:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#2

Post by maxwelldeux » November 10th, 2019, 4:54 pm

All - I'm in charge of collecting ratings for the sections, so please keep a few things in mind to help make my life just a bit easier:

- Please use the English titles when noting your ratings
- Make sure you report your ratings on the 1-10 IMDB scale
- Don't edit your posts - please make a new post when you add more ratings (so I actually see them)
- If you see any errors or omissions on my data collection, please point it out to me.

If you want to see the ratings and follow along, here is the spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... sp=sharing

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#3

Post by maxwelldeux » November 10th, 2019, 5:07 pm

LA 92 - 9/10

This is brilliant, and currently sits as my #3 on my favorite docs list. I'm old enough to remember a lot of the events in the film, so it was fascinating to see it contextualized so well. It really sets the stage for a lot of the weird shit that's happening in the USA, including OJ, Black Lives Matter, etc.

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#4

Post by Teproc » November 10th, 2019, 6:34 pm

Shirkers - 8/10. A fascinating look into a time and a place, plus some mysterious shenanigans and some serious autobiographic introspection.

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#5

Post by joachimt » November 10th, 2019, 8:49 pm

Cuba and the Cameraman (2017) 7/10
LA 92 (2017) 7/10
Shirkers (2018) 8/10

I've seen more from this selection than from the main slate. :)
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#6

Post by maxwelldeux » November 11th, 2019, 6:15 am

Ex Libris: The New York Public Library (2017) - 8/10

Wiseman is hit and miss for me; this is the 12th of his I've seen, and was definitely one of the best. A good chunk of that is just personal interest, as I was a lot more interested in libraries as a subject, but also in the side topics that were covered at the library. For a Wiseman film, this felt less Wiseman and more staged, but I think that was appropriate given the subject and all the awesome things going on at the library. Definitely a recommend from me.

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#7

Post by mightysparks » November 11th, 2019, 7:31 am

Have seen LA 92 previously.. 6/10
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#8

Post by Lonewolf2003 » November 11th, 2019, 3:09 pm

Ratings for already seen movies:

Ex Libris: The New York Public Library: 8.0 - Like every Wiseman doc it excels in just plain hours long people watching, which would work even with the sound turned off. But I also found the discussions in the board rooms about the new role of libraries in the 21st century as a community center and place to provide acces to information to all very interesting.

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#9

Post by maxwelldeux » November 11th, 2019, 8:28 pm

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail - 7/10

There's enough financial crime and fraud to go around, and the issues are complex and not at all sexy. This doc is the story of the only financial institution charged with crimes relating to the 2008 financial crisis. The title comes from the fact that unlike the large institutions committing crimes on a massive scale who could destabilize the world economy if they were properly punished, this one bank was small enough to go after without blowing up the world.
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This doc touched on a lot of issues, but didn't pay quite enough attention to any of them. There was the racism angle about going after immigrants and a Chinese bank. There was the workings of the family who founded and ran the bank. There was the fraud that was committed in the bank itself. And of course, there was the great issue of the financial crisis and what all was happening. But I felt like I didn't quite get enough on any of those.

It felt to me more like a trial documentary, with a lot of talking heads. Certainly the trial and what was going on was interesting, but I didn't learn quite as much from it as I wanted to. I find the subject very interesting, so I was glad I watched it, but my enjoyment was entirely to do with the subject matter. Something like Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005) or the Netflix docuseries Dirty Money did better treatments of large scale financial crimes and fraud.

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#10

Post by Coryn » November 12th, 2019, 10:23 pm

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail dir. Steve James. 2016, 88 min 6,5/10

To start off I need to say that my knowledge about banking is not large but definitely big enough to grasp what has happened 10 years ago (source: I'm a banker).
The 2 previous docu's regarding financial fraud in "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)" and especially "Inside Job (2010)" grasped me more than this one.
The story revolves a small Chinese community bank in USA which is until now and probably will be the one and only bank who was criminally indicted in the wake of the United States' 2008 mortgage crisis.

Now for the characters I really liked the dad, he seems like a person who has seen it all and can't be destructed yet feels like a sweet guy who would do anything for his children and wife. The children however ... are interrupting everybody who is talking and annoyed me for a good bit of the docu. Their reasoning did not make any sense whatsoever and while I'm not saying they had any bad intentions, I do say that they are probably not competent to run a bank.

Overall I enjoyed it as it interests me of course.
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#11

Post by maxwelldeux » November 12th, 2019, 11:14 pm

Coryn wrote:
November 12th, 2019, 10:23 pm
Now for the characters I really liked the dad, he seems like a person who has seen it all and can't be destructed yet feels like a sweet guy who would do anything for his children and wife. The children however ... are interrupting everybody who is talking and annoyed me for a good bit of the docu. Their reasoning did not make any sense whatsoever and while I'm not saying they had any bad intentions, I do say that they are probably not competent to run a bank.

Overall I enjoyed it as it interests me of course.
I can't really disagree with anything you wrote. The dad didn't do much for me, though I appreciated the back story. The children were certainly annoying at times, though I tried to attribute that to the stress of what was going on for them rather than as an example of their normal behavior. Plus, there may be cultural issues I'm not familiar enough with to comment on.

But yeah - check out the Netflix docuseries Dirty Money (should be available to you if you have Netflix access). Pretty cool stuff on financial crimes. :thumbsup:

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#12

Post by Coryn » November 13th, 2019, 6:15 am

I'll add that one to my never-ending watchlist.
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#13

Post by Ivan0716 » November 14th, 2019, 4:18 pm

Shirkers - 5.3

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#14

Post by 72aicm » November 14th, 2019, 8:15 pm

La 92 - 8/10

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#15

Post by beavis » November 14th, 2019, 8:47 pm

I won't be able to complete this selection. During the programming I did get around to watch three of the suggestions made by the others though, and must say I liked two of them ;)

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#16

Post by cinewest » November 16th, 2019, 7:12 am

Cuba and the Cameraman is not interesting enough to finish, in fact the weakest film I have viewed, so far.

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#17

Post by connordenney » November 16th, 2019, 2:38 pm

ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL 4/10
EX LIBRIS: THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY 9/10

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#18

Post by maxwelldeux » November 16th, 2019, 10:15 pm

cinewest wrote:
November 16th, 2019, 7:12 am
Cuba and the Cameraman is not interesting enough to finish, in fact the weakest film I have viewed, so far.
I'm with you on that point, actually.

Cuba and the Cameraman: 4/10
SpoilerShow
It's not that it was bad, per se, but it just didn't do anything. There wasn't enough background about Cuba to place everything that was going on into context, and as I'm not super well informed on Cuban history, I was disappointed to not really learn much from this. Each of the story lines for the families was pretty superficial and impersonal - yeah, they were going through some shit, but everyone was. There wasn't enough time spent with the people to really get to know them as people; rather, they were just vehicles to tell a pretty mundane story about the state of Cuba over several decades.

The most interesting part was the relationship between Castro and the filmmaker. It was interesting to see some behind-the-scenes footage that actually painted Castro as a human, rather than the monster you see depicted in American media. This would have been a much better story to focus on, IMHO.

But the thing that annoyed me the most was the filmmaker's voice in the documentary - it was both too much and too little. Too much in that it wasn't just talking to the families, but about his relationship with the people. But also too little in that it wasn't actually his story, but a story he injected himself into. This seemed to try to straddle the fence between a personal story and an objective documentary and missed the mark on both sides.

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#19

Post by Bia » November 17th, 2019, 12:03 am

'LA 92dir. Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin. 2017, 114 min. :imdb::ICM:
Directors Lindsay and Martin reconstruct the riots sparked by the murder of Rodney King through powerfully edited and rarely seen archival footage.'

Rodney King wasn't murdered. The cops surrounded him while he was laying on the ground and beat the shit of him. He didn't die. It was all caught on film. The riots happened after the cops beat the charges.
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#20

Post by maxwelldeux » November 17th, 2019, 1:19 am

Shirkers - 8/10
SpoilerShow
I quite enjoyed this. This was a deeply personal tale of an odd mystery surrounding a film made in Singapore 25 years prior. I liked that this was largely told from a first-person perspective, but was honest enough to allow different viewpoints from others involved in the film.

All in all, it was fun to see so many references to other films and young people struggling through the process of filmmaking. I appreciated the mystery and intrigue weaved in as well as the pleasant moments of humanity.

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#21

Post by xianjiro » November 19th, 2019, 3:37 pm

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail - 7
Cuba and the Cameraman - 8
Ex Libris: The New York Public Library - 9
LA 92 - 9
Shirkers - 8

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#22

Post by Coryn » November 20th, 2019, 6:14 pm

Ex Libris: The New York Public Library 5/10


Don't get me wrong I love libraries, actually I'm more than happy that my city invested tons last year in a new library and the results are amazing. I spent hours and hours at my library as I like the feeling of being around books.

This docu though, while being more daring than it looks like, was just boring to me. It's awesome that all these things are happening in a library but 3 hours and 30 minutes of watching this while I can and do experience the same thing at 500m from my door is just not interesting to me.

Therefore only a 5 out of 10.
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#23

Post by maxwelldeux » November 21st, 2019, 1:40 am

Coryn wrote:
November 20th, 2019, 6:14 pm
Ex Libris: The New York Public Library 5/10


Don't get me wrong I love libraries, actually I'm more than happy that my city invested tons last year in a new library and the results are amazing. I spent hours and hours at my library as I like the feeling of being around books.

This docu though, while being more daring than it looks like, was just boring to me. It's awesome that all these things are happening in a library but 3 hours and 30 minutes of watching this while I can and do experience the same thing at 500m from my door is just not interesting to me.

Therefore only a 5 out of 10.
Interesting reaction, and not one I would have expected. But it makes sense if you can experience all that cool stuff so close. I love my library, and while it's part of a larger country library system, I'm in a relatively small town, so we don't have much cool stuff here. So I liked Ex Libris precisely because I can't see that sort of stuff very easily.

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#24

Post by John Milton » November 24th, 2019, 1:32 pm

Only saw one of those

LA 92 7/10

Shirkers and Ex-Libris are on my to watch pile.

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#25

Post by blocho » December 2nd, 2019, 7:05 pm

LA 92
8/10

No talking heads, first-person memories, or reenactments here. This is entirely culled from contemporaneous footage. All of the filmmaking is contained within the choice of footage, the editing, and the application of the soundtrack. The result is powerful stuff that feels like a balance, wide-ranging narrative of the Rodney King story and its aftermath. I wonder to what extent, however, the people who were directly affected by those events, would feel differently.

I was 7 years old at the time of the riots, old enough to be distantly aware they were happening but not to have any real understanding. Nineteen years after the riots, I moved to Los Angeles, and spent three of my four years there living in areas that suffered damage and violence in 1992. My impression at the time, though definitely limited, was that relations between police and community had improved a lot since the riots, not to mention the infamous Rampart scandals of the late 1990s, which was one of the largest police corruption cases in American history (there was a decent Woody Harrelson movie about those scandals). And yet, a few months before I left LA, the police murdered a man named Charley Keunang for nothing more than being homeless. When only a small subset of people have a monopoly on the legal use of violence, abuse will always occur.

For more on Keunang, see this excellent article.

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#26

Post by outdoorcats » December 2nd, 2019, 10:18 pm

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail 8
Ex Libris 9
Shirkers 9

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#27

Post by maxwelldeux » December 3rd, 2019, 1:42 am

Since I haven't actually given my rankings...

1. LA 92
2. Ex Libris
3. Shirkers
4. Abacus
5. Cuba and the Cameraman

For me, LA 92 is the clear stand-out from this lot. Ex Libris and Shirkers could be 2a and 2b for me, but I'd give a very slight edge to Ex Libris. Abacaus is solid but not special, and Cuba rubbed me the wrong way.

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#28

Post by outdoorcats » December 4th, 2019, 11:18 pm

xian and max, LA 92? Though it seems like you'd both also be happy with Ex Libris?

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#29

Post by maxwelldeux » December 5th, 2019, 12:01 am

outdoorcats wrote:
December 4th, 2019, 11:18 pm
xian and max, LA 92? Though it seems like you'd both also be happy with Ex Libris?
The data support either. :thumbsup:

Personally, I'd prefer LA 92 - that currently sits at #3 on my favorite docs list, whereas Ex Libris is #82 (bottom 20%). But I'd like to hear what xianjiro has to say.

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#30

Post by xianjiro » December 5th, 2019, 2:32 am

maxwelldeux wrote:
December 5th, 2019, 12:01 am
outdoorcats wrote:
December 4th, 2019, 11:18 pm
xian and max, LA 92? Though it seems like you'd both also be happy with Ex Libris?
The data support either. :thumbsup:

Personally, I'd prefer LA 92 - that currently sits at #3 on my favorite docs list, whereas Ex Libris is #82 (bottom 20%). But I'd like to hear what xianjiro has to say.
Yeah, this is a hard call. They are both good but for entirely different reasons. And while documenting what libraries do before they change beyond all recognition as streaming replaces hard media (including books) is important, the length of most Wiseman docus is something of an issue for most people.

LA 92 on the other hand is immediate in the sense of putting us back there in a very specific time and place that shook so many people. It's the perfect mirror to hold up to the present to say, what have we accomplished in the quarter century since? So yes, absolutely, I'll support LA 92 all the way.

BTW, I wanted to like Abacus so much more than I did - concept was fascinating but execution was pretty meh. Shirkers was interesting, but just not quite as compelling. Same goes for Cuba's Cameraman.

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#31

Post by maxwelldeux » December 5th, 2019, 5:46 am

xianjiro wrote:
December 5th, 2019, 2:32 am
maxwelldeux wrote:
December 5th, 2019, 12:01 am
outdoorcats wrote:
December 4th, 2019, 11:18 pm
xian and max, LA 92? Though it seems like you'd both also be happy with Ex Libris?
The data support either. :thumbsup:

Personally, I'd prefer LA 92 - that currently sits at #3 on my favorite docs list, whereas Ex Libris is #82 (bottom 20%). But I'd like to hear what xianjiro has to say.
Yeah, this is a hard call. They are both good but for entirely different reasons. And while documenting what libraries do before they change beyond all recognition as streaming replaces hard media (including books) is important, the length of most Wiseman docus is something of an issue for most people.

LA 92 on the other hand is immediate in the sense of putting us back there in a very specific time and place that shook so many people. It's the perfect mirror to hold up to the present to say, what have we accomplished in the quarter century since? So yes, absolutely, I'll support LA 92 all the way.

BTW, I wanted to like Abacus so much more than I did - concept was fascinating but execution was pretty meh. Shirkers was interesting, but just not quite as compelling. Same goes for Cuba's Cameraman.
Yeah, I can't disagree with anything you said - I did love Ex Libris, but that was more of a function of the subject, rather than Wiseman and what he did. If I wasn't as interested in the subject (which happens a lot for me with Wiseman), it would have been very meh. But LA 92 did something different and special - I think both of us being in the USA and old enough to remember the events may have helped, but the film did a great job at putting me in a specific moment in time while still relating the context of that moment.

Abacus was definitely a great concept that fell a bit short of what it could have been. Shirkers I seemed to like more than you, but I was really drawn to the mystery of it all. Cuba annoyed me, but agreed it wasn't compelling.

So yeah, outdoorcats - I think we're in agreement on LA 92

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#32

Post by xianjiro » December 5th, 2019, 9:41 am

maxwelldeux wrote:
December 5th, 2019, 5:46 am
xianjiro wrote:
December 5th, 2019, 2:32 am
maxwelldeux wrote:
December 5th, 2019, 12:01 am

The data support either. :thumbsup:

Personally, I'd prefer LA 92 - that currently sits at #3 on my favorite docs list, whereas Ex Libris is #82 (bottom 20%). But I'd like to hear what xianjiro has to say.
Yeah, this is a hard call. They are both good but for entirely different reasons. And while documenting what libraries do before they change beyond all recognition as streaming replaces hard media (including books) is important, the length of most Wiseman docus is something of an issue for most people.

LA 92 on the other hand is immediate in the sense of putting us back there in a very specific time and place that shook so many people. It's the perfect mirror to hold up to the present to say, what have we accomplished in the quarter century since? So yes, absolutely, I'll support LA 92 all the way.

BTW, I wanted to like Abacus so much more than I did - concept was fascinating but execution was pretty meh. Shirkers was interesting, but just not quite as compelling. Same goes for Cuba's Cameraman.
Yeah, I can't disagree with anything you said - I did love Ex Libris, but that was more of a function of the subject, rather than Wiseman and what he did. If I wasn't as interested in the subject (which happens a lot for me with Wiseman), it would have been very meh. But LA 92 did something different and special - I think both of us being in the USA and old enough to remember the events may have helped, but the film did a great job at putting me in a specific moment in time while still relating the context of that moment.

Abacus was definitely a great concept that fell a bit short of what it could have been. Shirkers I seemed to like more than you, but I was really drawn to the mystery of it all. Cuba annoyed me, but agreed it wasn't compelling.

So yeah, outdoorcats - I think we're in agreement on LA 92
Well said on Shirkers! It was very engaging.

Yes, I remember the 92 Riots, where I was at and staying up all night watching the coverage on TV. However, LA 92 added perspective to those memories - either things I had forgotten or simply things that hadn't crossed my radar while living through that moment. I'd have no hesitation recommending it to anyone who's like, "What's up with this Rodney King guy and the riots?"

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#33

Post by maxwelldeux » December 5th, 2019, 10:59 pm

xianjiro wrote:
December 5th, 2019, 9:41 am
maxwelldeux wrote:
December 5th, 2019, 5:46 am
xianjiro wrote:
December 5th, 2019, 2:32 am


Yeah, this is a hard call. They are both good but for entirely different reasons. And while documenting what libraries do before they change beyond all recognition as streaming replaces hard media (including books) is important, the length of most Wiseman docus is something of an issue for most people.

LA 92 on the other hand is immediate in the sense of putting us back there in a very specific time and place that shook so many people. It's the perfect mirror to hold up to the present to say, what have we accomplished in the quarter century since? So yes, absolutely, I'll support LA 92 all the way.

BTW, I wanted to like Abacus so much more than I did - concept was fascinating but execution was pretty meh. Shirkers was interesting, but just not quite as compelling. Same goes for Cuba's Cameraman.
Yeah, I can't disagree with anything you said - I did love Ex Libris, but that was more of a function of the subject, rather than Wiseman and what he did. If I wasn't as interested in the subject (which happens a lot for me with Wiseman), it would have been very meh. But LA 92 did something different and special - I think both of us being in the USA and old enough to remember the events may have helped, but the film did a great job at putting me in a specific moment in time while still relating the context of that moment.

Abacus was definitely a great concept that fell a bit short of what it could have been. Shirkers I seemed to like more than you, but I was really drawn to the mystery of it all. Cuba annoyed me, but agreed it wasn't compelling.

So yeah, outdoorcats - I think we're in agreement on LA 92
Well said on Shirkers! It was very engaging.

Yes, I remember the 92 Riots, where I was at and staying up all night watching the coverage on TV. However, LA 92 added perspective to those memories - either things I had forgotten or simply things that hadn't crossed my radar while living through that moment. I'd have no hesitation recommending it to anyone who's like, "What's up with this Rodney King guy and the riots?"
Not only "What was up with this Rodney King guy?", but I think it does a great job of setting up the context of what was going on in LA leading up to the OJ Simpson trial and sets the stage for that miniseries.

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