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 and Maria, 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 is an adaptation of HEAT WAVE: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago (2002), Eric Klinenberg's groundbreaking book about the 1995 Chicago heat wave that killed 739 residents – mostly elderly and black – over the course of one week.