‘City So Real’ Is an Election Story Pulsing With Life

‘City So Real’ Is an Election Story Pulsing With Life

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The New York Times

By James Poniewozik

Midway through the documentary “City So Real,” Christie Hefner, the former chief executive of Playboy, hosts a “salon dinner” for some Chicago luminaries. With a stunning high-rise view as a backdrop, they talk about their town’s future: whether it will become a gleaming “global city” or descend into “chaos.”

Susan Richardson, the former publisher of the Chicago Reporter, a monthly focused on poverty and race, argues that it’s a false dichotomy to frame the city’s future as a choice between its wealthier and poorer residents. “I don’t think our city leaders see the connection between ‘OK, I’m going to make a deal with Deutsche Bank,’” she says, “and the woman who’s working in the braiding shop.”

Making that connection is, in a way, the mission statement of “City So Real,” a sweeping, radically curious five-part series from Steve James (of “Hoop Dreams” and “America to Me”). Often, we see political issues discussed from the vantage of that salon dinner — an elevated, aerial view of the city. But James, in the story of a crucial election and its aftermath, captures Chicago from every angle, from the penthouses to the cracked sidewalks, City Hall to the nail salons.

The result airs as a one-night special Thursday on National Geographic, amid an election in which cities have risen up in protest, struggled with a pandemic and been demonized by the Trump administration as “anarchist jurisdictions.” Chicago in particular has been caricatured as a lawless disaster zone by conservative politicians, including the current president. Read More.