2020 Sundance Docs in Focus: CITY SO REAL

CITY SO REAL | Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Steve James

CITY SO REAL
Steve James crafts an expansive portrait of modern-day Chicago against the backdrop of a contentious mayoral race and police trial.

Festival Section:
Indie Episodic

Sundance Program Description:

As a factious mayoral election coincides with the trial of the police officer who killed Laquan McDonald, Chicago becomes a flashpoint, with the city as a tinderbox and its citizens ready to spark. The meandering camera in CITY SO REAL captures a wide swath of voices and perspectives assembled from intimate family gatherings to combustible street protests and beyond. Candidates, voters, protestors, and bystanders all weigh in, with passionate arguments and casual insights presented in equal measure, creating a broad view of a city long held as a political lightning rod.

Veteran Sundance Film Festival contributor Steve James (AMERICA TO ME, 2018 Sundance Film Festival; HOOP DREAMS, 1994 Sundance Film Festival) returns with a storytelling mosaic that showcases an American city that is simultaneously distinctive in its singularity and also representative of the country as a whole – a place where issues of race and segregation impact everyone, where someone who wasn’t given a chance of winning the election can become the next mayor of Chicago.

Some Background:

Director/Producer/Editor:

  • Steve James
    Past Sundance docs:

    AMERICA TO ME
    MINDING THE GAP (2018, executive producer)
    THE NEW YORKER PRESENTS (2016, episode director)
    LIFE ITSELF (2014)
    THE INTERRUPTERS (2011)
    REEL PARADISE (2005)
    STEVIE (2003)
    HOOP DREAMS (1994/2014)

    James is an Oscar-nominated, Emmy- and Sundance-winning filmmaker. Based in Chicago, he has had a long association with Kartemquin Films, which serves as executive producer. James is also a cinematographer for this new series.

Producer:

  • Zak Piper
    Past Sundance docs:

    LIFE ITSELF
    THE INTERRUPTERS

    The Emmy-winning Piper is a Chicago-based filmmaker. He was director of production at Kartemquin for more than a decade.

Executive Producers:

  • Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann
    Combined recent past Sundance docs:

    AMERICAN FACTORY (2019)
    AQUARELA (2019)
    AMERICA TO ME
    THE PRICE OF FREE (fka KAILASH) (2018)
    AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER (2017)
    MELTING ICE (VR) (2017)

    Philanthropist and social entrepreneur Skoll is the founder and chairman of Participant Media. His Skoll Foundation has been a major partner of the Sundance Institute for several years.

    Weyermann, Participant Media’s president of documentary films and television, was previously the director of the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program for several years and the director of the Open Society Institute’s arts and culture program before that.

  • Alex Kotlowitz
    Recent past Sundance docs:

    THE INTERRUPTERS

    Kotlowitz is an award-winning author and journalist who has written extensively about Chicago

  • Gordon Quinn
    Past Sundance docs:

    MINDING THE GAP
    AMERICA TO ME
    LIFE ITSELF
    THE INTERRUPTERS
    A LION IN THE HOUSE (2006, consulting editor)
    STEVIE
    HOOP DREAMS

    Quinn is a co-founder and the longtime artistic director of Kartemquin.

  • Betsy Steinberg
    Past Sundance docs:

    MINDING THE GAP
    AMERICA TO ME

    Steinberg served as Kartemquin’s executive director from 2015-2018 and is now a media consultant.

  • Jolene Pinder

    Pinder joined Karetemquin as its new executive director in 2019. She previously served as the executive director of the New Orleans Film Society and #CreateLouisiana.

Editor:

  • David E Simpson
    Past Sundance docs:

    AMERICA TO ME
    MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE (2016)
    LIFE ITSELF
    WHEN BILLY BROKE HIS HEAD… AND OTHER TALES OF WONDER (1995, director/producer/editor)

Assistant Editors:

  • Rubin Daniels Jr & Pedro Urgiles
    Past Sundance docs:

    AMERICA TO ME

Why You Should Watch:
As demonstrated in his acclaimed AMERICA TO ME, James’ observational approach is well-suited to the episodic format, allowing him to follow a range of diverse subjects across various settings, capturing an impressively full sense of the city of Chicago.

More Info:
Sundance’s Meet the Artist Profile

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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