Movie review: A lifelong Oklahoman’s take on the Sundance documentary ‘Oklahoma City’

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The new PBS documentary "Oklahoma City" explores the Oklahoma City bombing and how the anti-government movement of the day galvanized bomber Timothy McVeigh. Poster image provided by PBS

The new PBS documentary “Oklahoma City” explores the Oklahoma City bombing and how the anti-government movement of the day galvanized bomber Timothy McVeigh. Poster image provided by PBS

Twenty years later, I couldn’t help but cringe at every replay of the explosion, every wide shot of the hollowed-out building, every close-up of the devastation.

Although Oklahoma City has changed dramatically since April 19, 1995, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building still leaves a mark on the psyches of Oklahomans. Back then, I was just a senior at Lindsay High School, about 60 miles from Oklahoma City, but I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news. (Even looking at the key press image for the film, which shows the ravaged Murrah building, was too tough for me to include it when I posted about the film on my BAM’s Blog or here.)

It may be heartrending and stomach-churning to watch, especially for Oklahoma natives and residents like me, but the new PBS documentary “Oklahoma City” is timely and vital viewing. The harrowing film, which made its world premiere last month at the Sundance Film Festival, does more than just recap the destruction wrought by Timothy McVeigh’s truck bomb.

Directed by two-time Emmy Award winner Barak Goodman, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his 2000 historical documentary “Scottsboro: An American Tragedy,” “Oklahoma City” convincingly connects the dots between the Oklahoma City bombing and the anti-government movement that inspired McVeigh’s deadly terrorist act.

Produced for PBS’ “American Experience,” the documentary starts with a mundane audio recording of a Water Resources Board meeting interrupted by the sound of the blast. The archival video of the walking wounded and the wrecked building are painfully familiar, but what’s new is how Goodman digs deep at the poisoned roots of McVeigh’s vendetta against the government.

To read the rest of my review, click here.

The film will make its television premiere on PBS’ “American Experience” at 9 p.m. Eastern Time / 8 pm. Central Time Tuesday night. Check your local listings for times here.

-BAM

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