2024 Trenton Film Festival: Regional Documentaries

Congratulations to the winners of our first regional documentary festival:

Best Documentary Feature Winner
The Forgotten Occupation (dir. Alain Martin, 92 min)

Best Documentary Short Winner
The Art of Survival (dir. Tony Heriza, Valerie Keller and James Wasserman, 28 min)

Best Trenton-based Documentary Winner
The Invitation (dir. Tamara R. Jackson, 29:41 min)

Audience Favorite Award Winner
Once a Child Soldier (dir. Janet Gardner, 31:42 min) World Premiere

Audience Favorite Award Honorable Mention 1
A Meal Can Change a Life (dir. Frank Lettieri Jr., 8:13 min)

Audience Favorite Award Honorable Mention 2
The Invitation (dir. Tamara R. Jackson, 29:41 min)

Event Details

Saturday, May 18, 2024
Screenings are scheduled at 12 noon, 3 p.m., and 6 p.m. followed by a reception & awards ceremony
Location: Passage Theatre at Mill Hill Playhouse, Trenton

🎟 Purchase Tickets & All-Access Passes (box office now closed)
Single Screening Blocks

General admission: $6 per event
Students with ID: $5 per event (use code "STUDENT24" for discount)

All-Access Passes

These passes will get you into all 3 screening blocks.
General admission:
Students with ID:
$10 (use code "STUDENTPASS24" for discount)

👇🏾👇🏾👇🏾 Scroll down to see the film schedule and listings.

Our first Regional Documentary Film Festival is a great opportunity to see locally made documentaries that focus on global and national issues with local impact. Filmmakers, many of whom will be available for Q&A after the showings, range from college students to seasoned professionals. The documentaries this year appeal to all audiences.

Awards for best documentary feature and short, and best Trenton-based documentary, will be announced after the last screening. And you the audience can vote for your favorite. Be sure to get your ballot from the ushers.

Online ticket sales will close 2 hours before each screening block, but tickets will remain available at the box office.


🎟 Purchase Tickets & All-Access Passes (box office now closed)

BLOCK 1: 12 Noon, Saturday, May 18

Welcome to Our Garden (dir. Dan Preston, 7:24 min.)

TFF regular Dan Preston documents a day in the life of the Vivian B. Shapiro Early Childhood Center in Trenton. The Center serves children infants to three-year-olds and their families, providing opportunities for development and learning.

First Name Basis (dir. Xinyi Qin, 18:53 min.) 

Xinyi Qin, a junior at Ithaca College, explores the lives of students thriving in a nontraditional educational environment. World premiere.

A Meal Can Change a Life (dir. Frank Lettieri Jr., 8:13 min.)

TASK, the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, provides more than a meal for its visitors; it provides counseling, training, art therapy, and a path to a new life.

Art of Survival (dir. Tony Heriza, Valerie Keller, and James Wasserman, 28 min.)

Art of Survival tells the story of the Kensington Storefront, an open arts studio located in the midst of Philadelphia’s opioid crisis. The film brings viewers into the remarkable community that flourished at the Storefront and provides a hopeful contrast to the many bleak portrayals of those who struggle with addiction.

The Invitation (dir. Tamara R. Jackson, 29:41 min.)

Women suffering from auto-immune diseases tell their stories from diagnosis to treatment and moving into recovery. Problems commonly associated with medical care include misdiagnoses, negative messaging from healthcare providers, and medical interventions devoid of holistic alternatives and empowerment.

Once a Child Soldier (dir. Janet Gardner, 31:42 min.) World premiere

Sayon Soeun breaks a twenty-five-year silence to reveal his abduction by Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge at age six, taking us behind the scenes with the children’s army as a witness to genocide. We follow Sayon to America to track his remarkable recovery and eventual redemption: helping children enjoy the kind of childhood that was stolen from him. World premiere.

BLOCK 2: 3 p.m., Saturday, May 18

The Forgotten Occupation (dir. Alain Martin, 92 min.)

The film begins with Alain Martin reading a letter to his deceased grandfather, who bemoaned the chronic troubles of his country, Haiti, and desperately hoped for an American intervention, seeing it as the only solution for his ravaged nation. Alain reminds his grandfather that a century ago, the United States occupied Haiti for decades only to leave it more impoverished and enmeshed in violent clashes of race, culture, and class.

Oh, Johnny! (dir. Lawrence Schwartz, 39:41 min.)

John Santillo, a 97-year-old World War II veteran, travels back overseas for the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day to relive his time at war. Through a story that moves between the past and present, Santillo opens up about the time he spent overseas using his unique blend of charisma, optimism, and humor that captivates everyone he meets along his journey. 

BLOCK 3: 6 p.m., Saturday, May 18

Saint Joseph (dir. Tim Stollery, 26:40 min.)

When Joseph Albright died on May 5, 2022, at age ninety-three, he was in in his fifty-eighth year as a reporter and columnist for Hudson County’s Jersey Journal, and was the longest-serving statehouse reporter in America. “Jersey Joe” was known for his daily habit of feeding and blessing animals on or near the grounds of the New Jersey Statehouse, prompting Albright’s media colleagues to refer to him as “the Saint Frances of Assisi of the statehouse.”

The Great NJ Debate: Pork Roll vs. Taylor Ham (dir. Ashley Morales, James Felcon, and Carter Zajak, 11:07 min.)

Rider students collaborated on an exploration of the great New Jersey debate that delves into the hearts of all those who dare to ask: Is it called Pork Roll or Taylor Ham?

Reception and Award Ceremony

8:30 p.m., Saturday, May 18

Please join us in the lobby for a reception announcement of awards for best documentary feature and short, best Trenton-based documentary, and audience favorite award.


2023 • 20222020-20212019 • 2018 • 2017 • 2016 • 2015 (Archives coming soon.)

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