A top contender for the Primetime Emmy for Best Documentary or Nonfiction Series this year is “City So Real,” “Hoop Dreams” and “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” filmmaker Steve James’ exploration of the 2019 mayoral race in Chicago. Below and exclusive to IndieWire, check out a conversation with Steve James as moderated by filmmaker Judd Apatow, who’s currently putting the finishing touches on his upcoming Netflix comedy film “The Bubble.”
In the five-part documentary series “City So Real,” Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Steve James delivers a complex portrait of Chicago, America’s third-largest metropolis and his longtime hometown. The series begins in the middle of summer 2018, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel, caught up in accusations of a cover-up related to the police shooting of a Black teenager, Laquan McDonald, stuns the city by announcing he won’t be seeking reelection.
Following the announcement, an unprecedented 21 candidates crowd the field, engaging in a no-holds-barred battle to shape Chicago’s future. The last episode of the series — added after the first four installments debuted at Sundance in January 2020 — picks up a year after the election, in 2020, as the city deals with Covid and the social upheaval following the murder of George Floyd. The city finds itself further divided by economic, political, and social fallout.
From IndieWire’s review of the series: “If it’s not already evident from the topical descriptions above, ‘City So Real’ encapsulates more than just a historical moment for Chicago. James isn’t telling the story of an American city, but the American city; Chicago’s problems are America’s problems, from our divisions to our strengths. By speaking to the candidates who want to shape the future and the residents living through a difficult present, James finds as many connections as contradictions, giving the campaign’s uplifting lessons a prime spotlight without overlooking the dubious warnings we can’t afford to ignore — not again.
“‘Significance’ is a word that gets tossed around a lot when discussing topical entertainment these days, but ‘City So Real’ carries its weight effortlessly. Responsible to the historic moment yet enthralling in a minute-by-minute capacity few unscripted or scripted TV series can earn, Steve James’ latest is a flat-out must-see.”
Watch the conversation with Steve James as hosted by Judd Apatow below.
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