The Film

A young black man in a khaki jacket talks animatedly to a bearded white man in a black jacket in a room with a large blue curtain

Moving, original and relevant to anyone involved in what it means to live in a community.
—Robert Downey, Sr., filmmaker

With its thriving main street, diverse population and healthy rate of revitalization, Hudson, New York could be seen as a model of small-town America. Depressed and declining towns across the country would welcome any amount of the economic upturn that Hudson has enjoyed in the last decade. But underneath the surface, Hudson is dealing with the same issues that communities of all sizes face: ever-widening income gaps and the loss of a middle class; threats to health and environment by polluting corporations, gentrification and homogenization; and a compromised democratic process. Local business and small farms find it impossible to compete against national chains, while long-standing friction persists along racial and economic lines. TWO SQUARE MILES takes a closer look at this small community in a state of flux, a town of 7,500 located 100 miles north of New York City. How do the residents of this town deal with change—and with each other?

The film follows the residents of Hudson over the course of two years, as passionately dedicated individuals fight for their community and breathe life back into the exercise of democracy. Residents are divided in their support for a proposed 300-million-dollar cement plant owned by a Swiss multinational corporation, a 40-acre industrial city with skyscraper-sized buildings towering over a 1,200-acre open-pit mine. Without a doubt, the project will have substantial impacts on the community's health, environment and economy. The fight against the plant is a vehicle through which different parts of the community come together, as politicians and executives try to divide the community for their own purposes. Unlikely alliances are formed as residents work together to challenge the powers that be, and to support progressive economic development that will protect, enhance and restore. The film also follows Hudson's highly charged mayoral race through the primary and general elections, which have reenergized the electorate and reinvigorated local democracy.

A sign painted on a board in red, black and white that reads: SLC Doesnąt Stack Up; Stop the Plant with a drawing of a smoke stack

In TWO SQUARE MILES, dedicated individuals work to hold on to the community that they have come to love. Sam Pratt leads the fight against the cement plant; Linda Mussmann campaigns to unseat the current eight-term mayor, Rick Scalera, and his “good ol’ boy” network; Jake Walthour is fighting to protect the Hudson of his youth, and works to bridge the gap between old and new residents. In town meetings and on the street, there are conflicts over historic preservation, zoning laws, tax assessments and affordable housing. Racial tensions flare and the distrust between neighbors rages.

Hudson has a cross-section of cultural and ethnic identities, from the European and African American families whose residencies in the town dates back to the Civil War, to the Bangladeshi immigrants who came to work in the button factories in the mid-20th century and the Bronx transplants who came to Hudson in the 1960s as part of a failed urban renewal effort. The current wave of new residents includes artists and activists, professionals from New York City, substantial numbers of immigrants from the Caribbean, a strong gay community and countless others seeking what so many cities in America have lost: a sense of community and a place where they belong.

TWO SQUARE MILES is an extended observation of an American small town in transition, raising questions about Hudson’s future that are mirrored in changing communities across the nation. How will the new, global economy affect the viability of small town America? How do towns provide good jobs while preserving the environment and their landscapes? Is our democratic process open to new voices? Can deep political divisions be healed? As Americans experience deep political and cultural divisions, TWO SQUARE MILES follows entrepreneurs, politicians, artists and activists who are fighting for what they believe in while striving to create their own version of the American dream.

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