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"By exposing the imperfections in the election process, the film needn’t delve into the futility of actually enacting meaningful reform, but given the times we’re in — and reportedly, James is currently at work on an addendum in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protests that overtook the nation following the murder of George Floyd — the passion to pursue public service and to vote is hopeful enough and with all its faults, City So Real shows Chicago in all its beauty." 

Stephen Saito,

"In a year where political documentaries were everywhere, Steve James' (Hoop Dreams, America to Me) City So Real stood out with a docuseries that perfectly captures the division, tension, and passion in politics today through the 2019 mayoral election in Chicago. Covering issues of race, police brutality, and the coronavirus pandemic, and violence, City So Real is a sweeping story of a city at odds with and in love with itself, and the people who live there."

"It’s a remarkable work by a remarkable filmmaker, deftly balancing the intimate and the grand. All of the facets of his previous subjects, from the raw thrill of sporting competitions to the complexities of the socioeconomic situation of his hometown, are at play here, with the focus on the campaign allowing a broad, unprecedented look at the charms and challenges inherent in his beloved city. Sprawling, sophisticated and yet deeply focussed, this is a master work of precision and scope, and an instant classic in the political documentary genre."

Jason Gorber, The POV Magazine

“What separates City So Real is its filmmaker, a man who simply approaches his form differently. I’ve said before that James is one of our most empathetic filmmakers, someone deeply interested in human stories, and that comes through in the casual footage of City So Real."

Brian Tallerico, Roger Ebert

“Monumental… City So Real is downright novelistic… The series covers so much ground, social and geographic and narrative, that it seemed to operate almost like a map of the whole program here at True/False; every other movie was like a neighborhood within its grand mosaic.”

A.A. Dowd, AV Club

“It’s an engrossing portrait of a city — and a country — at an inflection point, and a love letter to Chicago, too.”

Alissa Wilkinson, Vox

“City So Real takes a sweeping look at the public and private lives of Chicago, of the political machine and of everyday sidewalk stories, of life at work and sometimes at home. Exploring racial and cultural contradictions that often lurk just below the surface, James’s camera seems to parse the dissonance and cacophony of city noise to locate each individual voice for a brief moment.”

Daniel Christian, Paste

“Labeling "City So Real” as the Chicago self-portrait of the new century is a start. The finish, as James reminds us throughout, remains up to those who rule, live and die here.”

Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune

“James and company strike gold… little in James’ humane, clear-eyed approach and shaping of all this material suggests an agenda, or an interest in cheap shots. These people are our people; the anger, disdain, love and their often wary coexistence with everybody else is ours, too.”

Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune

“An immensely valuable, incredibly uniquely entertaining winds up being about pretty much every American city...a pretty significant piece of work”

“The reality is that I'd have happily watched 10 hours of City So Real, which never drags and never makes bureaucracy or procedure look boring.”

Daniel Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter

“I'm sure somebody in this Peak TV landscape could make use of a limited series this substantive, with this many conversations to spark.”

Daniel Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter

“Settling in to watch a Steve James documentary can be like taking your place at a 15-course prix fixe dinner from a master chef…City So Real is another gripping topical smorgasbord from James…The reality is that I'd have happily watched 10 hours.”

Daniel Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter

“"Significance" is a word that gets tossed around a lot when discussing topical entertainment these days, but City So Real carries its weight effortlessly.”

Ben Travers, IndieWire

“Like just about all of James’ work, City So Real is also incredibly watchable.”

Ben Travers, IndieWire

“The new Chicago-set docuseries is nonetheless substantial, engrossing, and declarative”

Ben Travers, IndieWire

"Magnificent... a sprawling, dense portrait of Chicago in crisis."

Amy Taubin, Film Comment

"It’s an incredibly eye-opening portrayal of the racism, violence, apathy, and corruption that exists not only in Chicago, but across our nation. This powerful depiction creates an opportunity to better understand one another and our political system at one of the most important times in our history."

'“City So Real” encapsulates more than just a historical moment for Chicago. James isn’t telling the story of an American city, but the American city; Chicago’s problems are America’s problems, from our divisions to our strengths."

Ben Travers, IndieWire