National Geographic announced the acquisition of “City So Real,” an official Indie Episodic selection at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, set to premiere on the network this fall. From filmmaker Steve James (“America to Me,” “Hoop Dreams”) and his longtime producing partner Zak Piper (“Life Itself,” “The Interrupters”), this portrait of contemporary Chicago is set against the backdrop of its history-making 2019 mayoral election.
The logline: The series begins in the haze of mid-summer 2018, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel, embroiled in accusations of a cover-up related to the police shooting of an African-American teenager, Laquan McDonald, shocks the city by announcing he won’t seek reelection. An unprecedented 21 candidates emerge in a diverse and crowded field as they engage in a no-holds-barred battle for a chance to shape the city’s uncertain future.
From the summer of 2018 through the spring of 2019, James, Piper, as well as James’ son, filmmaker Jackson James, and their team followed the historic, often contentious mayoral election. Scenes from the streets, luxury high-rises, barbershops, campaign offices and nightclubs are juxtaposed by editors David E. Simpson (“America to Me”) and James to create a mosaic of life in the Midwest’s most racially, culturally and economically diverse city.
“Chicago is an enormous and enormously diverse urban environment that wrestles with issues of race and segregation and violence, which is the story of America today,” said Steve James. “You see evidence of that everywhere in the series from the barbershop conversations to the people watching the debate. All cities have their boosters, but there’s something unique about the passionate love and civic pride Chicagoans have for their city. The documentary captures the beauty and the richness of a very complex city, while also showing how divided it can be.”
“The portrait of Chicago through Steve’s unique storytelling lens is one that will powerfully resonate across the country and elsewhere,” added Diane Weyermann, Chief Content Officer for Participant. “We are thrilled to be working with our friends at National Geographic to share this deeply human, nuanced character-driven series, which boldly weaves together an unflinching and illuminating story of contemporary America.”