The Barber of Little Rock — an award-winning documentary short recently nominated for a Critics Choice Documentary Award, screened as part of DOC NYC’s Short List program and counts basketball great Dwyane Wade among its executive producers — has been acquired by the New Yorker Studios for an Oscar run.
The film is now part of the New Yorker Documentary series, which showcases innovative shorts from around the world that offer uncommon perspectives on important issues, and will launch on the magazine’s digital channels in January 2024.
Directed by John Hoffman and Christine Turner, The Barber of Little Rock explores America’s racial wealth gap through the story of Arlo Washington, a barber in Little Rock, Arkansas, whose barber college has created professional opportunities for more than 1,500 licensed barbers. Having experienced the effects of generational poverty and structural racism firsthand, Washington understands his community’s profound mistrust of financial institutions, which have historically created barriers to attaining financial stability and economic mobility. His vision for a just economy is embodied in People Trust, the nonprofit community bank he founded. Operating as the sole bank within a 10-mile radius, Washington’s People Trust fosters economic opportunities for underserved and underbanked residents, providing a model that could reshape the future of banking.
In addition to Wade, his 59th and Prairie Entertainment producing partner Jon Marcus and Story Syndicate’s Emmy winner Liz Garbus, Oscar winner Dan Cogan and Emmy nominee Jon Bardin are also credited as EPs on the film.
“We are thrilled to partner with the New Yorker to bring greater awareness to an important and uplifting story of resilience and hope for a better future,” says Wade. “Despite facing systemic barriers, Arlo is a true champion on the front lines fighting for a more equitable future for underserved communities. The Barber of Little Rock is the type of meaningful and inspiring storytelling we strive to amplify at 59th and Prairie Entertainment.”
“Too many generations of Black Americans have been deliberately and systematically excluded from the financial system in our country,” declare Hoffman and Turner. “One man, a barber from Little Rock, saw a way to upend the system and create opportunity for families and small businesses where others only saw too much risk — and he started it all in a converted shipping container in the parking lot of his barber college. We are so honored that the New Yorker is bringing Arlo’s spirit of positive, disruptive change to more communities.”
Add Cogan and Garbus, “We are so proud to have produced The Barber of Little Rock, which we are grateful that festival audiences, and now the New Yorker, have recognized as a standout, powerful story about the change a single person can make. It was wonderful to re-partner with John Hoffman and to work with the brilliant Christine Turner to tell this story.”