'Cooked: Survival by Zip Code' revisits 1995 Chicago heat wave that killed 739

CHICAGO (WLS) -- "Cooked: Survival by Zip Code" is a new documentary that examines the July 1995 Chicago heatwave, which killed 739 people.

"It's a title that makes some people uncomfortable, 'cause it sounds a little grizzly, because you're talking about people, but that's right, you're talking about people who were cooked behind closed doors," said Judith Helfand, director.

Helfand said the disaster, which was largely concentrated in communities where people of color, the poor and the aging struggled, is equal to any crisis of nature.

"If we really, really look at the underlying disaster that determined who lived and died, we will understand the disaster and the emergency today, and we will act on it and we won't wait," she said.

Startling images of that deadly season included cooling trucks, which were used to hold bodies when the coroner didn't have room for them, and the streams of victims.

"There's gotta be a story attached for every single person inside that truck," Helfand said. "Chicago has a 30 year life span differential between one side of town and the other side of town."

The film is currently playing at the Gene Siskel Film Center in the Loop.
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