National Geographic Documentary Films announced CITY SO REAL a five-part documentary series from Participant and Kartemquin Films, a collaborative center empowering filmmakers who create documentaries that foster a more engaged and just society.
CITY SO REAL, will air in an unprecedented one-night, five-hour, commercial-free event on Thursday, October 29 beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT.
CITY SO REAL is a fascinating and complex portrait of contemporary Chicago that delivers a deep, multifaceted look into the soul of a quintessentially American city, set against the backdrop of its history-making 2019 mayoral election.
The series begins in the haze of mid-summer 2018 as Mayor Rahm Emanuel, embroiled in accusations of a cover-up related to the police shooting of an African American teenager, Laquan McDonald, shocks the city by announcing he won’t seek reelection. An unprecedented 21 candidates emerge in a diverse and crowded field as they engage in a no-holds-barred battle for a chance to shape the city’s uncertain future.
Episode 1 – “Welcome to Chicago”
Facing a growing chorus of activists, incumbent Rahm Emanuel must choose whether to run for reelection against a large and diverse field of candidates in the most contested mayor’s race in Chicago history. Influencing his decision is the beginning of the high-profile trial for the murder of Laquan McDonald by a white police officer.
Episode 2 – “Blood Sport”
The Laquan McDonald trial unfolds and dominates media attention. With Rahm Emanuel now out of the race, a record 21 mayoral candidates submit their petitions to replace him. They must navigate the highly politicized and contentious petition challenge process to make the ballot. Chicago is famous for its rough-and-tumble politics that is considered a “blood sport.”
Episode 3 – “With All Due Respect to the Candidate”
During a bitterly cold Chicago winter, the petition process results in a mayoral ballot with a record 14 candidates. A historic verdict is reached in the Laquan McDonald murder trial, and the longest-tenured city alderman in Chicago history is federally indicted on corruption charges.
Episode 4 – “If You Want to Break the Machine”
No clear front-runner emerges in the historic mayoral race. Over a dozen candidates intensify attacks on each other and jockey for votes, culminating in a surprising and historic outcome that promises to profoundly shape the city’s uncertain future.
Episode 5 – “You Gotta Make It or You Gotta Take It”
One year after the mayoral election, the mayor and city residents must grapple with both the devastating Covid-19 pandemic and the widespread social upheaval following the police killing of George Floyd. An already fractured city is further divided as police clash with protesters, giving rise to a generational moment that promises to change the city forever.