In The Zone

Film Origins

Filmmaker Robyn Paterson writes...

We are living at a time when there is extraordinary focus on difference and division between communities. When mistrust between races, cultures, and religions seems front and centre. So do we build walls, and ensure our separation? Or do we build bridges, and seek to break down barriers? Terrance Wallace is a man passionate about building bridges, and it is for this reason that I began to film his journey beginning in 2014.

Growing up in the newly independent nation of Zimbabwe during the 1980s – the child of parents who had through the 1970s been a part of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa - questions of integration, segregation, and racial equality have been central to my conscience for as long as I can remember. I was raised at a time when the incumbent President Mugabe put strong focus on quality education and diverse, integrated, culturally rich schools. The violent and destructive path he has woven since has sadly become his better known legacy – a shift I documented in part in my previous film, Finding Mercy. But as was explored through that film, my upbringing has left me with a keen interest in post-colonial issues, and what joins us and divides us as a society. 

With the InZone project, Terrance has created a pioneering scheme that seeks to break long-term cycles of entrenched societal and racial inequality. It is unique in its focus on cross-cultural understanding, wrap-around support, and sustainability goals. Whilst scholarship schemes have for many decades offered top academic or sporting students a chance at education they couldn’t otherwise afford, the majority place individuals in fish-out-of-water circumstances and provide little backup – often putting extraordinary pressure on the recipients and their families. I was interested in Terrance’s project which instead takes kids who may or may not be succeeding, but still have a dream. It aims to extend not only the scope of those who are taken in, but also the broader cultural knowledge of those students already attending the more privileged schools to which the scheme is attached. The intention is that in time, both sides will have a strong influence within their own communities and continue the effect.

As the filmmaker, I have been returning to Chicago with Terrance at a time where the city’s escalating violence and divisions are very much in the nation’s spotlight. The task he has taken on to change lives and mindsets is a huge one, and it is one that has been fascinating to follow. It has been a dramatic and emotional journey, and it is my strong hope that in engaging with his story and that of the youth, the film will shine some light on the issues, the inspiration, and the need for meaningful change.