COOKED: Survival by Zip Code

Director: Judith Helfand
Documentary Features :: Voices
Running Time:81:39 minutes
Event Date(s)
10:45 AM
Sunday, November 17
Thalian Black

Director/Producer: Judith Helfand
Producer: Fenell Doremus
Editors: Simeon Hutner,
David E. Simpson

Chicago suffered the worst heat disaster in U.S history in 1995, when 739 residents – mostly elderly and black – died over the course of one week.  As COOKED links the heat wave’s devastation back to the underlying manmade disaster of structural racism, it delves deep into one of our nation’s biggest growth industries: Disaster Preparedness. Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Judith Helfand uses her signature serious-yet-quirky-style as interlocutor and narrator to forge 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 the slow motion disasters are made exponentially more deadly and visible.

But whether it was the heat wave in Chicago or Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Irma, Maria or Florence — all of these disasters share something in common, they reveal the ways in which class, race, and zip code predetermine who was living on the edge to start with, who gets hurt the worst, who recovers and bounces back — and who doesn’t.

In COOKED, Helfand challenges herself and others to truly see and respond to the invisible man-made disasters taking place in towns and cities across the country before the next “natural” disaster hits. COOKED is a connect-the-dots investigation into extreme heat, the politics of disaster and survival by zip code daring to ask: What if a zip code became just a routing number, instead of  a life-or-death sentence?

COOKED: Survival By Zip Code is an adaptation of Eric Klinenberg’s groundbreaking book HEAT WAVE: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago (2002).


Director/Producer Judith Helfand is best known for her ability to take the dark worlds of chemical exposure, heedless corporate behavior and environmental injustice and make them personal, highly-charged and entertaining. Her films include The Uprising of ‘34, the Sundance award winning and 2x Emmy nominated Blue Vinyl, its Peabody Award-winning prequel A Healthy Baby Girl, and Everything’s Cool. Three of those premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, with national broadcasts on PBS (POV), HBO and The Sundance Channel. A committed field-builder and educator, Helfand co-founded Working Films in 1999 and Chicken & Egg Pictures in 2005. She was Producer on the Oscar-nominated, DuPont winning short, The Barber of Birmingham, and Executive Producer for Brooklyn Castle, Semper Fi: Always Faithful, Private Violence, and Hot Girls Wanted. In 2007 Judith received a United States Artist Fellowship and in 2016 she was invited to join the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. Concurrent with distributing Cooked, Helfand is completing Love & Stuff, a first-person feature documentary that explores the transformative power of parenting, our complex and very emotional attachment to “stuff” and what it is we really need to leave our children. It will launch in 2020. As part of Working Films, Judith was a key partner in launching the Cucalorus Works-in-Progress lab to support the develop of social justice docs by African-American filmmakers.

Screening with:
Director: Leah Shore / 4:25
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