In the heart of the South Side of Chicago, an 85-acre area abutting a railyard means different things to different people. For more than 400 African American families, it is home. For Norfolk Southern railroad company, it is space to expand its train-to-truck intermodal depot. Directed by noted photographer David Schalliol, The Area begins in 2012, when Norfolk Southern has already bought out over half the area’s residents and is picking off the holdouts. Middle-aged homeowner Deborah Payne puts off her plans to move; instead, she digs in and becomes an ad hoc community organizer. As her neighbors jump ship and houses are pulled down, property values implode. Valiant and stubborn, Payne fights for fair-value buyouts and respect for those who remain. Filmed over the course of five years, The Area tells a complex story of economic revitalization, commercial interests, and community rights.
(USA, 2018, 92 min., DCP)
David Schalliol is an assistant professor of sociology at St. Olaf College who specializes in visual sociology. In addition to working on The Area, he has contributed to films including the ITVS/Kartemquin Films feature Almost There and the National Film Board of Canada's Highrise: Out My Window, an interactive documentary that won the 2011 International Digital Emmy for Non-Fiction. Schalliol is also a writer and photographer whose work has appeared in Artforum, Mas Context, The New York Times, and Social Science Research, as well as in numerous exhibitions, including the inaugural Belfast, Northern Ireland Photo Festival and the Museum of Contemporary Photography's Midwest Photographers Project. His first book, Isolated Building Studies, was published in 2014.
Brian Ashby began his filmmaking career co-directing the feature Scrappers, a three-year chronicle of two families surviving in Chicago's informal scrap metal economy. Roger Ebert included Scrappers on his Best Documentaries of 2010 list. Ashby co-created and co-directs two documentary web series, The Grid and Central Standard: On Education, and co-produced Hairy Who & The Chicago Imagists. Ashby's documentary projects have been supported by PBS Digital Studios, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council, and the Chicago Instructional Technology Foundation, and have been exhibited nationally and internationally at venues including the Gene Siskel Film Center, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Liverpool Biennial, and the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers.
Deborah Payne is a life-long activist who is dedicated to community development on Chicago's South Side. She has served as president of the Sherwood Peace Association, the Southwest Federation of Block Clubs, the CAPS Domestic Violence Subcommittee (7th District), and the Sherwood Local Advisory Council, and has worked as a community liaison and photographer for Teamwork Englewood, Chicago Embassy Church, and the Englewood Railroad Coalition. She is currently the president of the CAPS Domestic Violence Subcommittee (2nd District), a member of the Chicago Public Schools Englewood Steering Committee, and a volunteer at the Englewood Satellite Senior Center and with various women's shelters.
Judy Hoffman is Professor of Practice in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies.
Presented by the Film Studies Center and the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights with support from the Charles Roven Fund for Cinema and Media Studies.