Oscar Pistorius Doc Director Says It's a 'Story People Think They Know' but There's 'So Much' More
It's been over seven years since Oscar Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, but now the case — and the former Paralympian's life story — is getting a fresh look in an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary.
"[ESPN and I] were trying to come up with a subject that was worthy of such a deep-dive exploration that could play out over multiple parts," director Daniel Gordon tells PEOPLE of the upcoming film, The Life and Trials of Oscar Pistorius. "Oscar’s story came up and I remember my first words were that I wasn’t sure there was enough there."
Gordon says he soon discovered how wrong he was, adding, "I quickly realized just how layered of a story it truly was and how his life and current situation serves as a very real reflection of the complicated history of South Africa."
Pistorius — who was the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics — was arrested shortly after Valentine’s Day in 2013 after he fatally shot his girlfriend Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model who earned a law degree in 2005, by firing four bullets through the locked door of a bathroom in his house.
The former athlete later claimed that he believed an intruder had broken into his home and he was so fearful that he walked without his prosthetics toward the bathroom, grabbed his gun and discharged the four shots.
Pistorius has been in jail since 2013 and lost his appeal in 2018 to have his 15-year sentence reduced by South Africa’s highest court.
Gordon says that the filming process for the documentary — from which PEOPLE has an exclusive clip, above — took around three years in total, in part because it required a "building of trust" with a lot of the people involved with Pistorius and the trial in order to secure their participation.
"I ended up making eleven trips to South Africa of which seven were filmed," Gordon says.
The director also admits the "breadth" of the story was, at times, overwhelming: "I started going down rabbit holes that led me to examine areas of Oscar’s life that I hadn’t initially been aware of. He packed an awful lot of living into the twenty-six years of his life before he went to prison and there was such a vast archive of footage to be explored."
Like himself, initially, Gordon says "most people come to the Oscar Pistorius story with their own version of what they believe to have happened on that night in February 2013."
"There were a lot of intricacies of the case that the general public was not aware of and, when presented with all of this information in the larger context of his life, I do think that their opinions will change somewhat," he tells PEOPLE, adding, "It’s a story that people think they know."
Gordon thinks viewers will "begin to change your mind as you’re exposed to the different layers of his life and story. Hopefully, by the end, the viewer will be even more confused than they were at the beginning of the story. I know I was."
The first installment of the four-part documentary will debut on ESPN+ on Sept. 27, with each subsequent part streaming live the next three nights. The entire film will also be available on-demand on ESPN+ on Sept. 27.
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