Steve James on ‘City So Real’

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot gave Steve James exclusive access for his documentary series “City So Real.” Photo courtesy of Chicago Story Film LLC.

Steve James is best known for “Hoop Dreams,” his ambitious documentary that followed Chicago high school kids who aimed to make it in the NBA. The film took almost seven years to make, and it won the best documentary prize at Sundance in 1994.

Since then, James has kept taking on ambitious projects. In 2018, James made the critically acclaimed series “America to Me,” which follows students at a hypothetically integrated high school in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park.

Now he’s out with his new project, “City So Real,” a multifaceted look at the neighborhoods and cultures that coexist in Chicago. The series premiered at Sundance this year with four episodes that focus on the 2019 mayoral election, COVID-19 pandemic, and protests after the killing of George Floyd.

James discusses how he stitched together his mosaic, and how he convinced his funder Participant Media to let him make the bonus episode.



Kim Masters


Kaitlin Parker