March 9, 2020 1:08 pm
Steve James' latest project, City So Real enjoyed its first full series premiere at the True/False Film Festival on Saturday, March 7th. After premiering its first two episodes in the Indie Episodic Program at the Sundance Film Festival in January, festival goers were treated the opportunity to watch the full series all together including a brief intermission between episodes 2 and 3. The other screenings split the series in half.
"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," wrote A.A. Dowd for AV Club.
City So Real is an impressionistic, mosaic portrait of current-day Chicago which delivers a deep, multifaceted look into the soul of America’s third-largest city, set against the backdrop of its history-making 2019 mayoral campaign.
"It was really this kind of constant act of discovery making the film, and letting it lead us to people," James told Paste Magazine. "Whether it was the shoeshine guy, or the married couple that worked in the election and voted early, the Black woman and white man who met in the nursing home. All these people we just encountered, it’s what I love about documentary, and I loved about this particular documentary—that everything was fair game. When we went out during the day, we would go out with certain ideas of what we were gonna get, and the rest of it was: ‘Let’s just see what happens.’
Subtitled “The American City at a Crossroads,” City So Real has continued to impress critics and viewers with its gripping juxtaposition of the deep, contentious mayoral race parallel the city-altering trial of the police officer charged with killing Laquan McDonald.
"The four-hour-plus piece was worth every minute," wrote Ashley Jones for Vox Magazine. "This, at its heart, is the story of Chicago."
What People Are Saying:
Steve James' epic of Chicago politics CITY SO REAL begins with a real gut punch: the owners of The Hideout vowing to keep the venue open and survive Lincoln Yards. #truefalse2020
— A.A. Dowd (@AADowd) March 8, 2020
Update: Steve James has indeed done it again.
— A.A. Dowd (@AADowd) March 8, 2020
CITY SO REAL: Chicago's '19 mayoral campaign painted with the bureaucratic sprawl and fine minutiae of Wisemen, yet employs James' spry sense of pace and signature attention to personality. It's hard to say it's a high water mark, but it's damn close. #truefalse2020 pic.twitter.com/k0UfZ51KPb
— Jordan M. Smith (@Rectangular_Eye) March 7, 2020
CITY SO REAL (A/90): Deep coverage of 2019 Chicago mayoral election captures many reasons to buy into cynicism about the American system and politics yet doesn’t give in to despair. The right film for this moment that shows how much entrenched power fights to stay. #TrueFalse20
— Mark Pfeiffer (@markpfeiffer) March 8, 2020
What's next for birthday boy Steve James? He's got a new series called 'City So Real,' and it's one of our most anticipated documentaries of the year https://t.co/5yIKcmZZ2M
— Nonfics (@nonfics) March 8, 2020
Steve James gives us a magnificent sense of a large complex city in City So Real, staring right at the huge variations in cultures. I am hungry for more. The election stuff is a knock out. But I wanted more time just listening to groups chatting, from barber shops to Hefner’s PH.
— David Poland (@DavidPoland) March 7, 2020
CITY SO REAL needs a streaming deal yesterday. It was amazing in person as a full-length film; it'll be perfect as an episodic look back at the forces behind the 2019 Chicago mayoral election. https://t.co/nioHO3YPBM
— Kevin Fletcher (@accessfletch) March 9, 2020