2023 Trenton Film Festival
Friday-Sunday, June 9-11, 2023
Location: Mill Hill Playhouse, Trenton
Many thanks to our filmmakers, volunteers and audience members for helping us present another great Trenton Film Festival. CONGRATULATIONS to our juried and audience choice winners.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Seven Square Miles, Dir. LJ Frizell
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: The Traditional Brazilian Family KATU, Dir. Rodrigo Sena
BEST NARRATIVE FEATURE: Everybody Wants To Be Loved, Dir. Katharina Woll
BEST NARRATIVE SHORT: I Wanted to Be Vittorio Gassman, Dir. Cristian Scardigno
BEST ANIMATION: Purr, Dir. Zachary Tyler Vickers
BEST EXPERIMENTAL: Bone Ladies, Dir. Dan Preston
AUDIENCE FAVORITE: I Wanted to Be Vittorio Gassman, Dir. Cristian Scardigno
HONORABLE MENTIONS, Narrative Shorts:
The Highway Margin, Dir. Hossein Shojaei
Service Me!, Dir. Tom Cavanaugh
Single Screening Blocks
General admission: $8 per event
Students with ID: $5 per event (use code "STUDENT" for discount)
These passes will get you into all 11 screening blocks, June 9-11, 2023.
General admission: $25
Students with ID: $15 (use code "STUDENTPASS" for discount)
Scroll down to see the film schedule and listings.
The Trenton Film Festival, which returns for its 14th year, screens films by creators in various stages of their careers, hailing from nearby communities and from around the world.
The festival will include post-screening Q&A's and receptions that offer filmmakers a chance to share their love of film with each other and their audience members.
Online ticket sales will close 2 hours before each screening block, but tickets will remain available at the box office.
BLOCK 1: Opening Night - FRI, JUNE 9, 6:00 PM
Dir. Elham Aminian, Iran, 13mins, Animation
Are you afraid of spiders? In this inventive animated film, a little girl faces her fears and finds magic in art.
Everybody Wants to Be Loved
Dir. Katharina Woll, Germany, 1hr 20mins, Narrative Feature
Woll’s debut feature about a woman trying to balance her career, a selfish boyfriend, a difficult daughter, and an ailing mother won best screenplay award at the Munich International Film Festival. “This cleverly observed comedy shows how social constraints and contradictory expectations constrict our lives” (Cinema review).
BLOCK 2: Late Feature - FRI, JUNE 9, 8 PM
Dir. Sahand Khalaj, Iran, 13mins, Narrative Short
A young man with cerebral palsy spends his days photographing people in an upscale mall and develops a crush on a barista. Unlike most such films, this film does not seek the audience’s pity and focuses on the character’s abilities and feelings.
Dir. Payam Eskandari, Iran, 1hr 24mins, Narrative Feature
Another young man in love, this one living with Down’s syndrome. His greatest wish is to find love and get married. It seems, however, that the present-day world offers no place for him and his love until a gift completely turns his life around.
BLOCK 3: Documentaries - SAT, JUNE 10, 11:00 AM
The Traditional Brazilian Family KATU
Dir. Rodrigo Sena, Brazil, 25mins, Documentary Short
This film studies an Indigenous tribe in a remote area of Brazil. The Guardians of the Atlantic Forest face contemporary challenges such as the environmental degradation and agribusiness, evangelization in villages, drug abuse, and alcoholism. But also pride in their culture, family closeness, and connectedness to nature and the land.
Dir. Rodrigo Sena, Brazil, 15mins, Documentary Short
A cinéma verité documentary focusing on Luis, a blind priest in a Santeria-type religion in Brazil. The spirit world around you takes place much more through the third eye than through the physical ones. The film is beautiful, filled with color and music.
Bay St. Healer
Dir. Jonathan Balazs, Canada, 1hr 7mins, Documentary Feature
Dr. Gordon Warme started out as an obedient and conscientious doctor who, over the decades, became increasingly unconvinced of psychiatric expertise. “It’s stupid to pathologize life,” he says. Over the decades listening to patient problems, he is unsure that their issues are caused by their faulty brains. Director Balazs crafts a hypnotizing narrative of this eccentric healer through revealing interviews, expressive animations, and a contemplative bevy of archival media.
BLOCK 4: International Shorts - SAT, JUNE 10, 1:15 PM
The Highway Margin
Dir. Hossein Shojaei, Iran, 13mins, Narrative Short
A gripping drama, not because any great action but because Iranian law raises the stakes of a woman’s stolen scarf so high. A soldier she encounters can’t help her without endangering himself under those same harsh laws. They’re both imperiled, whatever they do. The portrait of Iranian life is profoundly damning.
A Few Steps Further
Dir. Omid Moallem, Iran, 14mins, Narrative Short
A banned author lives on a windswept border in the desert and sparks the interest of the guard on the other side. Will he risk everything to make contact? The film itself straddles the border between realism and metaphor.
Dir. Anne Ciecko, US, 3mins, Experimental FILMMAKER IN ATTENDANCE
A layered hybrid video works to connect original poetry and music with reflexive explorations of folk culture and heritage, in a representation of identity, trauma, memory, and survival. Quite beautiful.
Me. My eleven years. War.
Dir. Marusya Shuvalova, Ukraine, 9mins, Documentary Short
Amazingly assured film by an eleven-year-old Ukrainian girl. Her life is filled with fear, air raids, and a great desire to learn, train, develop, and most importantly, stay alive.
Dir. Farzad Foroughi, Iran, 6mins, Narrative Short
During the pursuit of a dissident writer in the streets of Tehran, a security officer encounters various crimes and delinquencies. A fabulous concept—the law pursues and tries to kill the artist but can’t be bothered with the appalling suffering and true evil right before its eyes.
Dir. Hossein Shojaei, Iran, 20mins, Narrative Short
A quiet movie about the inhuman consequences of the government forcing a strict code of morals on its citizens. This movie whispers rather than shouts.
Like a Dog
Dir. Hamid Naseri Moghadam, Iran, 20mins, Narrative Short
A lonely boy lives in a city on the outskirts of Tehran and is interested in helping stray and injured dogs. (Trigger warning.) He meets a young woman with a secret in her life that takes the relationship between them to a different direction. A film with a subtle message.
BLOCK 5: Shorts - SAT, JUNE 10, 3:15 PM
Dir. David Giese, Sweden, 4mins, Animation
A deep dive into Scandinavian folklore, mysticism, and nature set to a haunting musical score.
Kiss 'n' Ride
Dir. Olivia Jensen, Chicago, 7mins, Animation
Kiss ‘n’ Ride is a love letter to Chicago winters, an ode to commuting and traveling, and an homage to first dates. Lovely visuals.
Dir. Shabnam Gholikhani, Iran, 14mins, Narrative Short
Raha is a charming young girl who is eager to take lessons after she sees a dance session in the neighbor’s studio. Her father is suspicious of the instructor at first, but changes his mind when he finds out more about her. Seeing a community come together to defend someone and right their wrongs is inspiring.
The Last Ring
Dir. Jafar Mahyari, Iran, 16mins, Narrative Short
A wry look at the small mysteries of village life, where a phantom doorbell ringer can spark a flurry of speculation and gossip.
Dir. Kamya Nair, India, 53mins, Narrative Short
A crowd-funded film shot in a mere week between Covid lockdowns, Manju sets out to apologize to her best friend and the love of her life, Lailaa. She wants to reaffirm their love—and avoid a conversation with her formidable mother, who’s discovered the truth about the two young women, at all costs.
BLOCK 6: Saturday Night Feature - SAT, JUNE 10, 5:30 PM
Resurrection under the Ocean
Dir. Serkan Aktaş, Turkey, 3mins, Experimental
Resurrection under the Ocean depicts the resurrection of humanity from the darkest place of the ocean in a symbolic way. The film’s metaphorical narrative style and its use of fictional and formal elements aim to bring a unique approach to cinema. It offers a visual feast with the harmony of music and choreography.
Dir. Rodrigo Sena, Brazil, 12mins, Narrative Short
A visually stunning and beautifully scored story of a fishing community whose ancestors came from Africa, enslaved, whose ancient ancestral beliefs and cults remain. Residents must cope with the impact of a recent oil spill on their traditional ways of making a living.
This is Where I Meet You
Dir. Katharina Ludwig, Germany, 1hr 21mins, Narrative Feature
A struggling actress takes a vacation after another failed audition. Through people she meets on the road, she finds new perspective and strength in embracing her “failings” and finally trusts her inner voice to lead the way.
BLOCK 7: Shorts - SAT, JUNE 10, 7:30 PM
Ice Blonde Hair
Dir. Shabnam Gholikhani, Iran, 9mins, Narrative Short
A young girl has cancer, and her mother needs to sell her hair to pay for the treatments. The rich woman who buys it has her own secret trouble. A story of social inequality in Iran with a surprise ending.
Dir. Niki Mozafari, Iran, 10mins, Narrative Short
A woman is struggling to forget her partner by packing his personal stuff in a briefcase and desperately trying to throw it away. The situation is very natural and relatable in dealing with the type of mourning that comes with the end of a relationship.
Dir. Giovanni Battista Bacilieri, Italy, 48mins, Narrative Short
Animalia is a fable, a fictitious and unlikely story whose characters we can easily transform into symbols. Luca, a recently graduated psychologist, meets a feral child in the woods. Is Luca the “light,” the bearer of knowledge? Or the destroyer of freedom?
Dir. Miranda Angeli, Italy, 17mins, Narrative Short
Rachele has to face a terrible loss: her son Filippo has been killed by Giulia, a university classmate. Rachele wants justice, but after the meeting with Giulia she will soon find out that the truth is far more complex than she ever believed.
BLOCK 8: Shorts - SUN, JUNE 11, 11:00 AM
Shakespeare for All Ages
Dir. Hannes Rall, Germany, 3mins, Animation
The director succeeds in depicting the poet’s most famous plays in an immediately recognizable way with individual images that flow dynamically into one another. A smart, entertaining and coherent Shakespeare homage in less than three minutes.
Dir. Giovanni Busnach, Italy, 5mins, Experimental
Lea, thrown into a white and borderless room, is forced to study. She tries to focus, but her ADHD and a malfunctioning clock stop her from doing so. She starts a hysterical battle between the ticks of her pen and the clicks of the table clock.
Dir. Mark L. Mazzeo, US, 16mins, Narrative Short
When Reilly and Darwin hear about budget cuts at the office, they agree to act in solidarity to save their jobs. A well-paced and funny look at today’s workplace.
The Anxieties of a Reluctant Japanophile
Dir. Justin Meckes, US, 10mins, Experimental
In the style of Spalding Gray’s monologues, Meckes explains his attraction to Japanese culture. Funny and uses animation creatively.
Frederick's Unforgiving Flatulence
Dir. Elizabeth Aguilar, US, 8mins, Narrative Short
The title says it all. An odd yet hysterical fantasy-based sequence ensues in this comedic film.
Dir. Erol Mars, US, 12mins, Narrative Short FILMMAKERS IN ATTENDANCE
Unemployed Steve seeks advice from his successful friend, Rick, to help him ace a job interview. For anyone who has ever padded a resumé or had an anxiety dream about being asked to do something without any preparation.
Dir. Valerie Abrego Amaya, US, 6mins, Narrative Short
When Pamela’s best friend Casey decides to turn to spell casting to deal with recent heartache, Pamela is dragged into it despite her visible disapproval.
Dir. Dario Vero, US, 12mins, Narrative Short
Something dark and mysterious happened on January 10, 1982, in Nevada. And it happened again twenty years later. What is going to happen on 2022? Are Roy Williams, Tom Turner, Josh and Mike jumping from a dimension to another? Is their world real? Who are they?
Dir. Ryan Ward, US, 8mins, Narrative Short
When a curious nine-year-old girl embarks on a journey of exploration with her mother, she discovers the power of her imagination and the unlimited possibilities of the human spirit. The title, Our Secret, refers to the shared inner understanding that connects us all. It’s a secret that we often share with our closest loved ones, like our mothers, who shape our perceptions of the world and ourselves.
Dir. Tom Cavanaugh, US, 3mins, Narrative Short
A woman pulls into a gas station, but instead of asking the attendant to “Fill it up!” she makes some odd requests. Award-winning director’s film is fun and fast.
BLOCK 9: Shorts - SUN, JUNE 11, 1:00 PM
Dir. Warren Bass, US, 3mins, Experimental FILMMAKERS IN ATTENDANCE
Estuary is a sparse, meditational animation with some of the values and attributes of a visual haiku. Its images are loosely based on the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the James River.
Dir. Dan Preston, US, 4mins, Experimental
A beautifully made film explaining the creative process behind a kinetic sculpture by Maggie Rose made in response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The Ghost in the Machine
Dir. Duane Michals, US, 3mins, Experimental
The body moving through time becomes electric. Duane Michals has written and directed over forty short films. His photography has been shown at MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the International Center of Photography, and the Carnegie Museum of Art.
Dir. Christopher Romano, US, 12mins, Narrative Short
A couple grows old together. At its core, this movie is about love, and what it means to be in love.
Dir. Matt Spear, US, 8mins, Narrative Short
The death of a loved one is a surreal experience. Time seems to stand still and yet the world around you moves on. This is a recollection of the director’s memories from the day his grandma died and the moments that stood out. Wonderful use of silence.
Dir. Zachary Tyler Vickers, US, 3mins, Animation FILMMAKERS IN ATTENDANCE
Using primarily archive footage and sound and hand-drawn animation, Purr is a compressed memory of a six-month-old kitten, Elliot, before he passed away from the rare disease Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), aka “the Purring Disease.”
Strands of Light: Inspired by the Stories of Jorge Luis Borges
Dirs. Jay Stern, Joan Grossman, Alan McIntyre Smith, US, 35mins, Narrative Short FILMMAKERS IN ATTENDANCE
An anthology film inspired by the short stories of Jorge Luis Borges—“The Dream,” “The Infinite Library,” and “Emma Zunz”—made with filmmaking students at Rider University during the pandemic. Typically with Borges, the stories are enigmatic and elliptical. Excellent production values.
The Ninth Course
Dir. Domenico Bruzzese, Italy, 10mins, Narrative Short (Mockumentary)
In Murazzano, a small town in North of Italy (Langhe), an unusual bet takes place. One evening, in a tavern, Duke Marquis promises that, if Lucky Beppe wins another game of cards, he will eat a whole hippo. The people who witnessed those events firsthand will now tell us the tremendous consequences of that promise.
I Wanted to Be Vittorio Gassman
Dir. Cristian Scardigno, Italy, 16mins, Narrative Short
1962. Aldo Marianecci, a forty-year-old actor seeking his big break, returns to his hometown, Cisterna di Latina. He will spend the weekend with his lifetime buddies and with a young American woman met on a movie set in Rome. His days will go by waiting for a call that might finally change his life. An amusing and touching mockumentary based on the life of an actor who did not become Vittorio Gassman.
BLOCK 10: - Documentary Feature - SUN, JUNE 11, 3:15 PM
Dir. Colin Miller, US, 6mins, Narrative Short
A music-loving wastelander struggles to survive in the apocalypse when his radio breaks. You will feel for our lone protagonist. Silly, but with heart and charm.
The Lucas Brothers: 7 Years Later
Dir. Jessica Pilot, US, 12mins, Documentary
Featuring a contemporary interview with the brothers Keith and Kenny Lucas, who are writers and comedians, the film looks back on their careers as comedy writers and performers, and how the scene has changed in just seven years. The Lucas brothers are from Newark and graduated from TCNJ.
The Sun Rises in the East
Dir. Tayo Giwa, US, 58mins, Documentary
The Sun Rises in The East chronicles the birth, rise, and legacy of The East, a pan-African cultural organization founded in 1969 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Led by educator and activist Jitu Weusi, The East embodied Black self-determination, building more than a dozen institutions, including its own African-centered school, food co-op, newsmagazine, publishing company, record label, restaurant, clothing shop, and bookstore.
BLOCK 11: - Documentary Feature - SUN, JUNE 11, 5:00 PM
Dir. Michelle Elise Harding, US, 8mins, Narrative Short FILMMAKERS IN ATTENDANCE
With countless newscasts beginning with tales of murder and mayhem, it begs the question, is this the way news should be delivered? A “night in the life” of our protagonist Sylvia Stewart reveals the toll these stories can take on reporters and the mental cost of professionalism and determination to uncover the truth.
Seven Square Miles
Dir. LJ Frizell, US, 1hr 12mins, Documentary Feature FILMMAKERS IN ATTENDANCE
Can policing be reimagined? When a small New Jersey city realizes it cannot solve the epidemic of gun violence by arresting their way out of the problem, they try another strategy. With funding from the Attorney General's office, the city pilots a program called the Trenton Violence Strategy to support those who are at risk for reentering the criminal justice system.. Over the course of a year, we witness the struggle to keep this small but vital program alive. The film looks at the limitations of the criminal justice system in tackling issues driven by poverty and race and explores the possibilities of compassionate humane policing.