Event Recap

“COOKED: Survival by Zip Code” Switzer Network Screening Recording and Resources

The Switzer Network Race and Equity Discussion Group hosted a viewing and discussion of COOKED: Survival By Zip Code, a short documentary film that takes audiences from the deadly 1995 Chicago heat disaster deep into a rapidly growing industry of disaster preparedness. The event included remarks and Q&A with Judith Helfand, the director of the film, and DeAngelo Mack, director of state policy at Public Health Advocates and a partner to the project.

A recording of the event can be found here. The film is not included in the event recording. Event attendees were provided with a link to view an abridged version of the film. If you did not attend the event, visit the film’s website to look for a screening near you. The filmmakers have also provided a list of related articles below for anyone who would like to learn more.

About the film:

In her signature serious-yet-quirky connect-the-dots style, Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Judith Helfand takes audiences from the deadly 1995 Chicago heat disaster deep into one of our nation’s biggest growth industries - disaster preparedness. Along the way she forges inextricable links between extreme weather, extreme wealth disparity and extreme racism, daring to ask: What if a zip code was just a routing number, and not a life-or-death sentence? This searing investigation into the politics of “disaster” – by way of the deadly 1995 Chicago heat wave, in which 739 residents perished (mostly Black and living in the city’s poorest neighborhoods) -- is adapted from Eric Klinenberg’s ground-breaking book HEAT WAVE: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago.

Be it on the festival circuit, during the film's three-week theatrical run in Chicago, the two national PBS broadcasts, or our sustained community engagement campaign [in person and now virtual], our goal always remains to use our film to stimulate and support critical intersectional discussions in communities ravaged by redlining and segregation, systemic health inequity and the ever-worsening climate crisis. COVID-19 has only strengthened and made the film’s central question more vital: why must it take an extreme weather event or a pandemic for our nation to truly understand that extreme structural racism and inequity is killing people every day, no matter the weather. In cities like Chicago and New York, the difference between life expectancy for Black and White residents by neighborhood is as much as almost thirty years. This ever-increasing life-expectancy gap alone is enough of a crisis to warrant a national disaster response, and yet we are faced with so much more.


Judith Helfand, Director/Producer/Educator: Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Judith Helfand (BLUE VINYL, Cooked: Survival By Zip Code, LOVE & STUFF) is best known for her ability to take the dark worlds of chemical exposure, corporate malfeasance, environmental injustice, disaster politics and more recently deep grief and parenting, and make them personal, highly-charged and even entertaining. Bringing organizing know-how, a sixth sense for effective strategy, and years of experience, Helfand creates unique and powerful engagement campaigns for each of her films, often tying them to ongoing social movements at the forefront of change. A committed field-builder, Helfand co-founded Working Films in 1999, which uses documentaries to increase civic engagement and shift culture at the local, state, and national level, and Chicken & Egg Pictures in 2005, which decisively supports women and gender non-conforming documentary filmmakers at critical stages in their careers, where she is now a Senior Creative Consultant. She is currently a visiting professor at Columbia University’s School of Journalism in the documentary program.

DeAngelo Mack currently serves as the Director of State Policy for Public Health Advocates. He oversees state policy efforts focused on creating and/or changing laws centered around trauma and health disparities. Mr. Mack supports hospital-based violence intervention work as a Senior Advisor to the HAVI, a national non-profit organization which builds and connects violence intervention programs and promotes equity for victims of violence globally. For nearly two decades, Mr. Mack has made it his life’s work to provide violence intervention strategies and trauma-informed care to the underserved in marginalized communities across the country. Using this knowledge and his expertise as an organizer, youth pastor and playwright, Mr. Mack finds innovative ways to teach and empower youth and communities. Mr. Mack sits on numerous committees locally and nationally focusing on the creation and implantation of trauma informed practices and identifying social determinants of health, including the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative and the American College of Surgeons Committee of Trauma.