Cooked: Survival by Zip Code

Cooked: Survival by Zip Code

About the Film

In the summer of 1995, Chicago experienced an unthinkable disaster, when extremely high humidity and a layer of heat-retaining pollution drove the heat index up to more than 126 degrees. Cooked: Survival by Zip Code tells the story of this tragic heatwave, the most traumatic in U.S. history, in which 739 citizens died over the course of just a single week, most of them poor, elderly, and African American. MORE

When peeled away from the shocking headlines the story reveals the less newsworthy but long-term crisis of pernicious poverty, economic, and social isolation and racism. Cooked is a story about life, death, and the politics of crisis in an American city that asks the question: Was this a one-time tragedy, or an appalling trend?

The Filmmaker 

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, one of 50 awarded annually to “America’s finest living artists,” and in 2016 she was invited to join the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. Helfand is in production on a first-person, non-fiction feature Love & Stuff, an intergenerational love story about losing her mother and becoming a new “old” mom in her fifties, both at once LESS

Film Credits

Directed & Produced by
Judith Helfand

Produced by
Fenell Doremus

Edited by
Simeon Hutner
David E. Simpson

Broadcast Editor
Richard Miron

Original Music by

Graphics and Animation by
Momentist, Inc

Senior Creative Consultant
Michelle Ferrari

Content Advisor
Eric Klinenberg

Tod Lending
Stanley J. Staniski
Keith Walker

Executive Producers
Sandra Itkoff
Justine Nagan
Gordon Quinn
Betsy Steinberg
Sally Jo Fifer
Lois Vossen
Diana Barrett
Julie Parker Benello

Co-Producer & Editor
David Cohen

Supervising Producer
David Eisenberg

Senior Editorial Consultant
Lewis F. Erskine

Consulting Producer
Faye Lederman

Additional Camera
Pete Biagi
Ines Sommer
David Schalliol
Greg Stidham
Nadia Hallgren
Mirko Popadic
Peter Gilbert
Tony Hardmon
Mike Harlow
Kimmer Olesak
Joe Williams

Location Sound
Alan Chow
Derek Hanson
John Mathie
Rich Pooler
Patrick Tillmann

Additional Sound
Robert Aguilar
Toni Medici
Zak Piper
JB Smith
Bennett Spencer
Benjamin Steger
Adam Teichman
Matt Vogel
Avi Weider

Field Producers
Veena Rao
Xan Aranda
Beth Sternheimer

Archival Research
Natalie Bullock Brown
Jeff Martin

Additional Editors
Jacob Steingroot
Dara Kell
Rebecca Parrish
Scott Burgess
Sabrina Gordon
Jeremy S Levine
Melissa Sterne
Amy Seplin
Megan Katz
Kathryn Barnier
Jillian Schlesinger

Editorial Consultants
Jonathan Oppenheim
Margaret Brown
Jean Tsien
Sabine Hoffman
David Teague
Robb Moss
Mary Manhardt
Einat Sidi
Jenny Golden
Mary Lampson
Jeremiah Zagar

Story Consultant
Andrea Meditch

Assistant Editors
Mary Kerr
Chris Bravo
Katherine Knight
Sally Volkmann
Leigh Anne Sides

Pamela Kerpius
Emily Hart

Sound Mixer
Tom Paul

Stewart Griffin

Score Musicians

Matt Bauder
Violin, Viola, Cello
& Composer Assistant           
Jordi Nus
Drums, Additional Keyboards & Additional Music
Ryan Rummery
Additional Drum Programming & Composer Assistant 
Jake Sillen
Composers' Assistants                         
Brian Crimmins
Gavin Brivik

Additional Graphics & Animation

Post Production Services
Final Frame

Post Audio Services
Gigantic Studios

Additional Narration Services
Heard City

Director of Development
Joanna Lakatos
Director of Finance
Andrea de Fraga
Suzanne Niemoth
Director of Marketing and Distribution
Tim Horsburgh
Director of Production and Post
Risé Sanders-Weir
Post Production Managers
Hillary Bachelder
Matt Taylor
Technical Directors
Ryan Gleeson
Jim Morrisette
Additional Staff
Max Asaf
Abbie Brewer
Julia Martin
Laura Mesquita-Gomez
Ingrid Roettgen
Pedro Urgiles

Anna Campbell
Reid Compton
Kathryn Drury
Kelly Duncan
Dave Korta

Fair Use Consultant
Peter Jaszi

Legal Counsel
Pelosi Wolf Effron & Spates LLP
Shatzkin & Mayer, P.C.
Holland & Knight LLP
Kristina M. Hodges, Esq

Production Insurance
C&S International Insurance Brokers Inc.
The Hanover Insurance Group, Inc.
Ventura Insurance Brokerage, Inc.
One Beacon Insurance

Archival Materials Provided by
Budget Films
Chicago Transit Authority
CNN Image Source
Ken Herzlich
Nathan Fitch
Producers Library Service
Storm Stock
USA Today Sports Images
Valerie Brown

Additional Materials Provided by
Chicago History Museum/iCHI-04694/iCHI04674 - Arthur M. Weiland
Museum of Broadcast Communications
News Exposure, LLC
U.S. Navy Blue Angels
Vanderbilt News Archive

Special Thanks
Ra'anan Alexandrowicz
Macky Alston
Mia Barricini & Adam Gross
Peter Boger
Center for Culture, History and Environment
Yance Ford
Patricia Gillespie
Faye Ginsberg
Laura Goldin
John Hoffman
Institute for Public Knowledge
Jim Klein
Grace Lee
Beth Levison
Tia Lessin
Loira Limbal
Lower East Side Girls Club
Carrie Lozano
Susan Margolin
Sarah Masters
Ronny Merdinger
Yoruba Richen
Rinku Sen
Rona Talcott
Lana Wilson
Working Films

Funding Provided by
Ford Foundation
Barbara Dobkin and the Dobkin Family Foundation
Leo S. Guthman Fund
MacArthur Foundation
Marisla Foundation
Abigail Disney and Fork Films
Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program
Fork Films
Putnam Foundation
Park Foundation
The Ettinger Foundation and The Educational Foundation of America
Lisa & Matthew Chanoff
Sarah & Timothy Cavanaugh
Bertha Foundation
The Russell Family Foundation through the Chicago Community Foundation
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President's Grant
The Dorot Foundation
The Todd and Betiana Simon Foundation
Jack Lampl through a donor-advised fund at the Tides Foundation
Beth B. Sackler
Dominique Bravo & Eric Sloan
Marjorie Roswell through a donor-advised fund at the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund
Carolyn Fine and The Fine Fund
Karma Foundation
The Cohen Family Foundation
Christopher & Phoebe Pilaro
Nancy Blachman through a donor-advised fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Summer Fund
MAC fund, a donor-advised fund at The Pittsburgh Foundation
And others. A complete list available from PBS.

Original Series Funding Provided by
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Wyncote Foundation
The National Endowment for the Arts

COOKED: Survival by Zip Code is a co-production of Judith Helfand Productions, Kartemquin Films and Independent Television Service (ITVS) with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

This program was produced by Judith A. Helfand Productions, Inc. and Kartemquin Films which are solely responsible for its content.


© 2018 Judith A. Helfand Productions, Inc. and Kartemquin Films. All rights reserved.


Do you think this tragedy was an outlier, a one-time tragedy--or a trend? Had you heard of the 1995 Chicago heatwave before, and did you know about the death toll? If not, why do you think you'd never known about this story? How prepared is your own zip code for a heat disaster?
Please review our comment guidelines.
Do you think this tragedy was an outlier, a one-time tragedy--or a trend? Had you heard of the 1995 Chicago heatwave before, and did you know about the death toll? If not, why do you think you'd never known about this story? How prepared is your own zip code for a heat disaster?