TCA: Nat Geo acquires Steve James docuseries “City So Real”

National Geographic has acquired City So Real, a docuseries from director Steve James, Participant Media and Kartemquin Films, which made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival. The series examines the ...
August 3, 2020

National Geographic has acquired City So Real, a docuseries from director Steve James, Participant Media and Kartemquin Films, which made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival.

The series examines the 2019 mayoralty race in Chicago and the challenges facing the Midwestern American city. Originally shot in four parts, a fifth part has been added and will debut on Nat Geo, encompassing the social unrest that has gripped the city and cities around the world in the wake of the death of George Floyd, as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon the Windy City.

The Disney-owned cable net aims to air the series in the fall.

Hoop Dreams helmer Steve James, in addition to directing the series, serves as producer with longtime production partner Zak Piper, and as cinematographer with filmmaker and son, Jackson James.

Executive producers include Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann, Alex Kotlowitz, Gordon Quinn, Betsy Steinberg, and Jolene Pinder.

“Chicago is an enormous and enormously diverse urban environment that wrestles with issues of race and segregation and violence, which is the story of America today,” said James in a statement. “You see evidence of that everywhere in the series from the barbershop conversations to the people watching the debate. All cities have their boosters, but there’s something unique about the passionate love and civic pride Chicagoans have for their city. The documentary captures the beauty and the richness of a very complex city, while also showing how divided it can be.”

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the extraordinary Steve James and the team from Participant Media on City So Real, a profound and intimate portrait of life in every American city that could not be more timely,” said Nat Geo Global Television Networks president Courteney Monroe. “We look forward to showcasing this ambitious and impactful documentary series, including Steve’s newly filmed fifth hour capturing the pandemic and the civil unrest gripping our nation.”

In other news emerging from the network’s TCA summer presentation, Nat Geo will premiere a one-hour special from Red Arrow Studios-owned Karga Seven Pictures, Bin Laden’s Hard Drive, on September 10 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Presented by CNN security analyst and author Peter Bergen, the special explores the wealth of information culled from a trove of the al Qaeda mastermind’s personal records, incorporating material from close to 470,000 digital files, 250 gigabytes of data, over 100 USB drives, DVDs and CDs, five computers and multiple cell phones.

The special also features expert interviews and analysis designed to shed further light on the newly declassified information unearthed from the compound in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was tracked down and killed in May of 2011, nearly a decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in America.

The network has also greenlit Virus Hunters, a documentary special from ABC News’ Lincoln Square Productions, featuring National Geographic fellow, epidemiologist and ecologist Christopher Golden and ABC News foreign correspondent James Longman. Set to debut on November 1, in conjunction with National Geographic Magazine’s single-topic issue on the COVID-19 pandemic, the special follows the duo as they travel to numerous hotspots around the world to talk to scientists attempting to uncover more about the current pandemic and potential treatment, as well as ways to prevent future plagues.

Virus Hunters is produced by Lincoln Square Productions for National Geographic. For Lincoln Square Productions Jeanmarie Condon and Drew Pulley are co-executive producers. For National Geographic, executive producer is Bengt Anderson.

Lastly, Nat Geo and prodco Red Rock Films have lined up acclaimed actor Sigourney Weaver and filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer James Cameron to serve as narrator and executive producer, respectively, of its upcoming four-part natural history event series Secrets of the Whales, set for Earth Day in April of 2021. Also in the natural history genre, the network is teaming up with Nutopia (One Strange Rock) for a special that will debut during its ‘Sharkfest’ week in August of 2021, Shark Beach (w/t), to be presented by actor and environmentalist Chris Hemsworth. The special will also air on sister network Nat Geo Wild.

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