Millerton director is an Oscar nominee

Arlo Washington in a film still from the Oscar-nominated short "The Barber of Little Rock."

Story Syndicate

Millerton director is an Oscar nominee

John Hoffman, a Millerton resident, has been nominated for his film “The Barber of Little Rock,” which he co-directed with Christine Turner, in the Best Documentary Short Film category at the upcoming 96th Academy Awards.

Distributed by The New Yorker and produced by Story Syndicate Production in association with 59th & Prairie, Better World Projects, and Peralta Pictures, “The Barber of Little Rock” explores the efforts of Arkansas local hero Arlo Washington, who opened a barbershop at 19 years old and, with a mission to close the racial inequality gap in his community, went on to found the Washington Barber College as well as People Trust Community Federal Credit Union. Washington’s goal is aiding his primarily Black neighborhood, which has historically been underserved by more prominent banking institutions.

Hoffman appeared at The Moviehouse in Millerton for a special screening of the short film Friday, Feb. 23, which played along with the four competing nominees: “Nai Nai & Wài Pó” (Grandma & Grandma), a humorous portrait by Sean Wang of his maternal and paternal Taiwanese grandmothers who share one home in Los Angeles, California; “The ABCs of Book Banning,” which features interviews with Florida school children discussing the books that have been removed from their libraries; “The Island Inbetween” which documents life on Kinman, an island governed by Taiwan and located across a bay from Mainland China; and “The Last Repair Shop,” about the lives of four dedicated craftspeople who repair the musical instruments for public school children in Los Angeles.

“The Barber of Little Rock” received the Jenni Berebitsky Legacy Award at the 2023 Indy Shorts International Film Festival and was nominated at the eighth annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards.

At the talk, Hoffman explained that one of the most potent experiences in filming the documentary was seeing firsthand the financial and racial divide in Little Rock, illustrated by Interstate 630, which acts as a barrier between white affluence and Black poverty in the city. The interstate resulted from the signing of the Federal Highway Act by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, then the most extensive public works program in America. In the documentary, Scott Green calls the fallout from the I-630 “not a wealth gap, but a wealth chasm.” Green is the nephew of Ernest Green, one of the Little Rock Nine, the first African American students permitted to enroll at Little Rock Central High School.

People Trust, the only Black-owned Community Development Financial Institution in Arkansas, is attempting to bridge that chasm by supporting the emergence of minority-owned businesses in the community, including helping graduates of Washington’s barber college forge a path toward establishing their own shops and salons and providing emergency grants for Little Rock residents experiencing the strains of houselessness or searching for a new start following incarceration. The average People Trust loan is $5,000 for businesses and $1,000 for individuals.

As Washington says in the documentary short, “Once [Little Rock residents] can put funds here, and deposits, then we’re not going to put money outside of this community, we’re going to put money back into the community.”

“Once this catches on, it becomes a threat,” Green replies. “Because it can inspire others to think that they can become free. This is about being free.”

The 96th Oscars will be held Sunday, March 10, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles and will be televised live on ABC.

“The Barber of Little Rock” is available to watch on and The New Yorker’s YouTube channel.

John HoffmanAlexander Wilburn

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