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Winner of the New York LOVES Film Award. Special Awards Screenings of this film will be held on May 4th (see schedule for details).
Filmed over the course of nine years, Zoned In traces the remarkable real-life journey of 16-year-old Daniel from a Bronx high school to an Ivy League university while simultaneously exploring the role of race and class in the American education system. Narrated by Daniel himself, the movie celebrates the accomplishments of this extraordinary young man but does not shy away from depicting his struggles to fit in amongst the privileged students at his college and his candid questioning of a system that has allowed him to excel but has left so many of his friends and family members behind. By the age of 15, Daniel had sold drugs, fathered a son, witnessed his mother's arrest, and watched of two of his brothers get thrown in jail. The following year, his mother decided a fresh start was in order for her family, and she moved them from North Carolina to the South Bronx, where Daniel began his studies at Taft High School. The first in his family to graduate from high school, he was thrilled to be accepted into a prestigious Ivy League university. Despite his optimism about the opportunities that await him there, upon arrival he finds himself ill-prepared both socially and academically. Propelled by his determination to return to and have a positive impact on his Bronx neighborhood, Daniel ultimately manages to refocus himself and succeed academically, but his faith in the US educational system is shaken along the way. With shades of Hoop Dreams, this documentary is a memorable portrait of young man who beat the odds and triumphed over the many barriers that stood in front of him.
Director's Statement Collapse
Filming for Zoned In started in 1998. The original intention was to make a documentary about the challenges of public education in what was then the most notorious and chaotic high schools in the South Bronx. In this harsh environment, the young people I met still carried a hope that they would fulfill their dreams, but Daniel stood out. I was captivated by his personality, maturity and his desire to succeed, all the while knowing he was fighting against incredible odds. Meeting and watching someone who was putting all his might into resisting what society had reserved for him was inspiring and grabbed my interest as a filmmaker. It provided an opportunity to go far beyond the locality of a single school or issue. I started to film without yet knowing where the story would take me or how I would deal with it, but convinced that if I committed to it something valuable would come of it.
In order to fully capture the challenges, struggles, successes, and frustrations that Daniel was experiencing in a way that exposed a bigger picture, it became clear that the filming would need to be over a long period of time. It would need to follow Daniel's academic path to its natural conclusion, whatever that might be. Through the long journey that took him out of the ghetto into an elite America, Daniel's unfaltering sense of loyalty to his family and community was both his strength and his weakness. His story paints a picture of the reality of being poor and black through a constant reflection on himself, his beliefs, his past, present, and future. He hides nothing and all the personal emotions stand out for all of us to see and feel.
This is what I have tried to convey with Zoned In, by using a style that wasn't based in vérité cinema with its focus on everyday things, and instead focused on the broader emotional strokes and events. Ultimately a simple story of achievement against the odds, the narrative of the film is strong, direct, and natural but progresses through a complex and emotional path. Daniel's incredible story needed to be told and to be shared with a wide and diverse public with a view to warn, challenge, and inspire. His message is a message of self-help, without animosity but with great honesty. And whilst he achieves his goals he never loses sight of the many who aren't able to. I was fortunate to meet Daniel, follow him, and witness this young man carve out a strong sense of identity and commitment to what he believes in.
Film Information Collapse
Cast & Credits Collapse
Producer Daniela Zanzotto
Director of Photography Daniela Zanzotto
Editor Dominique Lutier
Sound Designer Ben Baird
Music Supervisor Create Fresh Music
Connect to this film Collapse
About the Director(s)Collapse
Daniela Zanzotto specializes in documentary filmmaking. She grew up in Rome, Paris, Mexico City, and London and is of French and Italian parents. She is now based in London. In 1996 Daniela completed her master's degree in French history and literature at the University of Rochester. She then spent two years at CUNY in the comparative literature PhD program, but after taking a short course in filmmaking, she set off for Paris to make her first documentary, If the Walls Could Speak, about public housing in Paris that was used as an internment camp for French Jews. Daniela's second film was Kissed by Angels, and her Battaglia documentary was commissioned by four European and Canadian broadcasters.