A documentary spotlighting a Trenton violence intervention program makes its TCNJ debut on September 28. The 72-minute-long piece, titled Seven Square Miles, is directed by Lorna Johnson-Frizell, interim dean of the School of the Arts and Communication.
The film reveals some of society’s most pressing urban issues as it follows a Trenton police detective and a formerly-incarcerated community activist as they launch and try to maintain a program, known as the Trenton Violence Reduction Strategy, that offers support and mentorship to individuals most at risk of re-entering the criminal justice system.
“What you’re seeing are systemic failures, not people failures,” says Johnson-Frizell, who began work on the documentary in 2015. “You can’t just look at gun violence without looking at poverty, jobs. They’re intricately linked and you have to connect the dots.”
TCNJ faculty and alumni were involved in the film, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Sandy Gibson, professor and clinical coordinator in the department of counselor education, was instrumental in Trenton Violence Reduction Strategy’s creation; Aaron Wilson Watson ’20 was cinematographer; and Genevieve Faust ’08, who previously worked with Johnson-Frizell on the I Am TCNJ docu-story, edited the film.
Seven Square Miles began showing in festivals in 2020, including the Bronx Social Justice Matters Film Festival, the International Social Change Film Festival, Toronto Independent Film Festival, and the New Jersey Independent Film Festival, where it was named “Best Feature Documentary.”
For Johnson-Frizell, directing the film allowed her to see Trenton through the eyes of the people who live and work there. “There’s a lot of love in the city,” she says. “It is heartwarming. People want to lift and support Trenton and give back.”
— David Pavlak