Arc of Justice

Arc of Justice traces the remarkable journey of New Communities, Inc. (NCI), a story of racial justice, community development, and perseverance in the face of enormous obstacles.

NCI was created in 1969 by leaders of the Civil Rights Movement in southwest Georgia to help secure economic independence for African American families. For fifteen years, NCI cooperatively farmed nearly 6000 acres of land, the largest African American landhold in the country, but racist opposition prevented them from implementing plans to create 500 affordable homes as part of the community land trust.

Unable to secure government loans to cope with the impact of successive years of drought, NCI lost the land to foreclosure in 1985. But 25 years later NCI was given new life as a result of a successful class action lawsuit brought by hundreds of African American farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture for loan discrimination. With the settlement, the original founders purchased a 1,600-acre plantation once owned by the largest slave owner and richest man in Georgia. NCI is now growing pecans and using the antebellum mansion on the property as a retreat and training center, still committed to its mission of promoting racial justice and economic development.

  • Mark Lipman
    States of Grace, Father's Day, Holding Ground
  • Helen S. Cohen
    States of Grace, Homes and Hands
  • Helen S. Cohen
    States of Grace, Let's Get Real, That's a Family, It's Elementary
  • Mark Lipman
    States of Grace, Gaining Ground
  • Mark Lipman
    Editor & Sound Recordist
    Alaska Far Away
  • John Emmeus Davis
  • Rick Butler
    Director of Photography
    The Black Panthers, Jessie Owens, Marcus Garvey, many others
  • Mtamanika Youngblood
    Consulting Producer
  • Lara Tishler
    Post Production Assistant
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Genres:
    African American, History, Community Land Trust, Community Development, Racial Justice, Black Land Loss, Farming
  • Runtime:
    22 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    April 22, 2016
  • Production Budget:
    75,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
    San Francisco, CA
    United States
    July 29, 2016
    World Premier
  • DOCUTAH International Documentary Film Festival
    St. George, UT
    United States
  • Hudson Valley International Film Festival
    Monroe, NY
    United States
  • Portland Film Festival
    Portland, OR
    United States
    August 31, 2016
  • Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
    Missoula, MT
    United States
    February 22, 2017
  • North Bay Arts and Film Festival
    Benica, CA
    United States
    October 8, 2016
    Best Documentary Short
  • Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival
    Sebastopol, CA
    United States
    March 23, 2017
Distribution Information
  • New Day Films
    Country: United States
Director Biography - Mark Lipman, Helen S. Cohen

Since 2004, award-winning directors/producers Helen S. Cohen and Mark Lipman have been creating documentary projects together under their Open Studio Productions banner.

Prior to becoming an independent producer in 2004, Helen was co-director of Women’s Educational Media, now called Groundspark, a nonprofit organization specializing in the production and distribution of social issue documentaries. She is the co-creator of the acclaimed "Respect for All Project," a program that produces cutting edge films, curriculum guides and training resources to help prevent prejudice among young people. Helen spearheaded the Project’s outreach and teacher-training program, which has been recognized nationally as a model for using film to affect progressive social change.

Helen's producing credits include "It’s Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School" (1996), the groundbreaking documentary that addresses anti-gay prejudice and explores how teachers can include discussions about LGBT people in their classrooms; "That’s a Family!" (2000), where elementary school–age kids describe in their own words the many shapes that families take in today’s diverse world; and "Let’s Get Real" (2003), an in-depth look at name-calling and bullying in middle schools, told entirely from a youth perspective. She has also directed, produced, and/or executive produced documentaries for public interest organizations, including "Homes & Hands: Community Land Trusts in Action" (1998) and "Street of Dreams: Development Without Displacement in Communities of Color" (2013).

Mark’s films have been broadcast nationally on public television and won numerous awards. His producing/directing credits include "To Have and To Hold" (1981), the first documentary to look at domestic violence through the experiences of men; "Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street" (1996), a film about the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative’s successful efforts to revitalize a Boston neighborhood devastated by redlining, arson, and illegal dumping; "Father’s Day" (2003), an experimental documentary about the death of his father; "Gaining Ground" (2012), a sequel to "Holding Ground" that explores Dudley Street’s success in preventing foreclosures and fostering youth leadership; and "Street of Dreams: Development Without Displacement in Communities of Color" (2013). He also edited "Alaska Far Away" (2008), a feature documentary about a controversial New Deal program that relocated two hundred destitute farm families into the wilds of Alaska.

Mark has extensive experience designing and implementing audience engagement campaigns for his films. The Ford Foundation included "Holding Ground" as one of ten case studies in an evaluation of its most successful media grants over the prior twenty years.

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Director Statement

“Arc of Justice” is part of a series of short films we are making about how community land trusts (CLTs) are being used in communities of color to improve neighborhoods while preventing displacement. Although we have been making films about community development for many years, we had no idea that this progressive model has its roots in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. When we learned about New Communities, the first CLT in the U.S., we were totally bowled over by its power and historical significance and knew we had to bring its story to a broader public.