MAS Context Fall Talks 2022

The Area

November 1-November 30, 2022

Between November 1 and November 30, 2022, MAS Context hosted the digital screening of The Area, a documentary filmed over six years in Chicago. The feature-length film made its world premiere at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and has screened on America ReFramed and PBS.


Inside the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago is a small middle-class community surrounded by railroad tracks. “The area” was a destination for many Black Americans arriving from the South during the Great Migration of the mid-20th century. Homes, wealth, and memories have been handed down from generation to generation.

Despite decades of redlining, divestment, and the 2007 foreclosure crisis, nearly half of families own their homes outright—but the expansion of the nearby freight yard threatens the community and all it has built.

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The Area, Chicago. © David Schalliol.

When the train company representatives told Deborah Payne that her South Side Chicago neighborhood would be demolished to build a freight yard, she vowed to be “the last house standing.” A thirty-year resident of the Englewood community, she had raised generations of neighborhood children alongside her own, forging deep friendships and traditions in this Black American community surrounded by the tracks.

The Area is the five-year odyssey of her neighborhood, where more than 400 Black American families are being displaced by a multi-billion dollar freight company. As their community is literally being torn apart, residents maintain friendships and traditions while fighting for the respect they deserve. Through their experiences, the film weaves an all-too-real story about the disproportionate harm that structural racism has done to Black communities, while illustrating the hope and promise neighbors find in one another as they fight for their home.

For more information about The Area, please visit


Monday, November 14, 2022 at 12PM
The Area panel discussion
Conversation with Deborah Payne and David Schalliol moderated by Shawhin Roudbari

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Deborah Payne, The Area, 2018. © David Schalliol.

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The Area, 2018. © David Schalliol.

The Area is a complex, issue-driven documentary analyzing the erasure of a neighborhood, and shining a light on the meaning of community.
—LaToya Cross, South Side Weekly

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The Area, 2018. © David Schalliol.

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The Area, 2018. © David Schalliol.

This is exactly how systemic racism operates: You don’t have to do anything special to make it happen. Systems do what they were designed to do … You would have to actually try for it to not happen.
—Marisa Novara, Metropolitan Planning Council (Current Chicago Housing Commissioner)

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The Area, 2018. © David Schalliol.


Producer & Activist: Deborah Payne
Director, Producer, & Cinematographer: David Schalliol
Producer & Editor: Brian Ashby
Peter Galassi
Impact Producer: Gabriel Charles Tyler
Impact Producer (former):
Naeema Jamilah Torres
Associate Producer:
Yana Kunichoff
Consulting Producer:
Dan Rybicky


The film was supported by the Graham Foundation, the Driehaus Foundation, the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and IFP Documentary Labs.