'City So Real,' new Steve James documentary series, is pulsating portrait of Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Set against the backdrop of the historic 2019 Chicago mayoral election and tumultuous 2020 summer of COVID-19, "City So Real" is a mosaic, pulsing portrait of Chicago at a crossroads.

Created by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Steve James, who gave us "Hoop Dreams" and film critic Roger Ebert's "Life Itself," "City So Real" is a close-up look at the grit, glory and dangerous turmoil in the City of Big Shoulders.

When the film begins, public outcry over the police shooting of Laquan McDonald is escalating and Mayor Emanuel has said he won't run for reelection.

James fallowed all the candidates answering the demand for new leadership.

"As it turned out, we were able to get quite a bit of access to that minor candidate that actually became mayor," James said.

Because his subjects aren't usually the biggest names, being a fly on the wall isn't too hard for James to achieve.

"Most of the people in my films over the years, you know this, are people who are not famous, they're not Roger Ebert, they're people who most of the media has never shown any interest in hear from, so when I give people an opportunity to be heard, I think that's important," he said.

And he hopes this film will help change the views of people who have never lived in or even visited Chicago.

"I hope that they will be inspired by the passion here," he said. "Chicago is the birthplace of community organizing, and so a lot of what's going on in the country now, in the wake of George Floyd, is in the DNA of Chicago."

"It has deepened my understanding of just what a complex and passionate place this is," James added. "If I've gotta live any place in America, I would rather it be Chicago."

You can see all five episodes of "City So Real" Thursday night on National Geographic starting at 6 p.m.

The series will be on Hulu beginning Friday.

Disney is a partner with National Geographic, and is the parent company of ABC.
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