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2018 Sundance Film Festival

Cory Booker Brings BRICK CITY to Park City

Forest Whitaker and Newark Mayor Cory Booker (Photo Credit: Michael Buckner/Getty Images). For more images from this party, check out the photo gallery.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker was “in the house” on Sunday, which is how he was introduced at a screening of the documentary series BRICK CITY, whose second season premieres next Sunday on Sundance Channel.

Wearing jeans, hiking shoes, and a black zipper-neck sweater, Booker was in non-politician mode as he spoke with the show’s executive producer Forest Whittaker, and co-directors Marc Levin and Mark Benjamin in front of a small audience gathered at the Bing Bar on Main Street. Also in the house: Isabella Rossellini and Rosie O’Donnell, who before the screening was posing with a small rescue dog wrapped up in a snow-suit. “It’s going to be a photo spread, me and my puppy,” O’Donnell joked.

This season of BRICK CITY, which feels like a docu-version of The Wire, focuses more singularly on Booker as he fights for re-election, and faces severe budget-cuts, a rising crime rate, and a faith-losing constituency.

The year “was a battle for him,” Benjamin said of Booker. “Because every incumbent in America is suffering a lot of pushback because of government and dwindling funds and resources for everything… It’s been a tough year for him.”

For more images from this party, check out the photo gallery.

Booker admitted as much, saying that watching the full six episodes of the series was “very painful” and “gut-wrenching.”

“It will probably be years before I can watch it again,” he said.

Asked why he’d agreed to participate in the film, given his public profile, Booker—who was also the subject of the 2005 documentary STREET FIGHT–said that he was impressed with how the filmmakers “treated the residents of the city of Newark, and recognized their profound sense of dignity.” He also said that he believed the project was “a story of hope.”

“You know, we had to manage our expectations,” he said, smiling. “As much as I wanted it to be sort of a tourism video—Come visit the city if Newark!—and they had promised me profusely that they would make me look skinny, which, they lied.

“But, in truth, I came to have a deep respect for the filmmakers in their willingness to tell a story that delved into a very difficult subject matter and that would expose America to the truths that the majority our citizenry are affected by… And at the end of the day would generate hope into a very difficult world.”

Forest Whitaker. For more images from this party, check out the photo gallery.

Check out all the photos from this event here.

Brick City Season 2 premieres January 30 at 8p.

For more of Nicole’s dispatches at the Sundance Film Festival see her blog on The Daily Beast.