Cooked: Survival By Zip Code Debuts on PBS Independent Lens on Monday, February 3rd

The new feature documentary COOKED: Survival by Zip Code, a searing exploration into the politics of “disaster,” blends investigative reporting about the deadly 1995 Chicago heat wave with a potent argument that the best preparation for a disaster may start with investing in racial and economic justice.

COOKED: Survival by Zip Code will have its national television debut on the PBS television series Independent Lens on Monday, February 3 at 10:00 pm (check local listings), preceding coverage of the Iowa caucuses. The film will also be available to stream at and on the free PBS Video App throughout Black History Month.

Join the conversation about the film with the hashtag #CookedFilmPBS. Follow the film on Twitter and Facebook @CookedTheFilm.

The film has sparked a wealth of conversation on topics from race to environmental justice and resilience. Watch the panel discussion from the July 2019 theatrical run on the COOKED website under the Community Engagement tab. On the cusp of the film’s two-week packed-house July 2019 run at Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center, author Eric Klinenberg and filmmaker Judith Helfand wrote an OpED for the Chicago Tribune.

Upcoming Chicago Screenings:

  • 2/15/20 Chicago Cultural Center - WTTW sponsored (Learn More)
  • 2/17/20 Chicago Beyond and Communities United - Private Youth Screening

Twenty-five years after the 1995 Chicago heat wave, COOKED: Survival by Zip Code examines the events that led to the deaths of 739 people, mostly Black and in the poorest neighborhoods of the city. The film arrives at a time of growing calls across the country to declare racism a public health crisis and to reinvest in communities ravaged by the long-term impact of structural racism. A recent NYU study found life expectancy differentials as wide as 20-30 years linked to racial and ethnic segregation between neighborhoods in American cities.

Adapted from Eric Klinenberg’s ground-breaking book ‘HEAT WAVE: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago,’ COOKED: Survival By Zip Code is directed and produced by Peabody Award-winning director Judith Helfand (Blue Vinyl, A Healthy Baby Girl, Everything’s Cool), produced by Fenell Doremus (co-producer of Academy Award-nominated Abacus: Small Enough to Jail), and Kartemquin Films, the award-winning Chicago documentary production house behind Minding the Gap and Hoop Dreams.

Asking open-ended questions that push people to deeply consider what it might mean to redefine the term “disaster” and reframe the concept of “resilience,” Helfand forges inextricable connections between the cataclysmic natural disasters we’re willing to see and prepare for and the slow-motion disasters we’re not – that is until an extreme weather event hits and they are made exponentially more deadly and visible. Using a combination of chutzpah, humor and candor, Helfand delves deep into one of our nation’s biggest growth industries: disaster preparedness.

Whether it’s a deadly heat wave in Chicago or Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey or Maria, these disasters reveal the ways in which class, race, and zip code predetermine who lives and dies everyday, regardless of the weather and who gets hurt the worst and first in the wake of an “official disaster.” In COOKED, Helfand challenges herself and ultimately all of us to respond to the man-made disasters taking place in towns and cities across the country before the next unprecedented “natural” disaster” hits. 

COOKED is a co-production of Kartemquin Films, Judith Helfand Productions and the Independent Television Service (ITVS). Major funding was provided by the Dobkin Family Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Ford Foundation | JustFilms, Leo S. Guthman Fund, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Fledgling Fund, Fork Films, and the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, among others.