Seven Square Miles

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 to support those who are at risk for reentering the criminal justice system. They call it Trenton Violence Reduction Strategy. With the help of a formerly incarcerated activist and a team of city residents --a young women police detective creates a program whose goal is to support and mentor rather than punish those who are at risk for recidivism. Over the course of a year, we witness the struggle to keep this small but vital program alive as they confront the enormity of the task at hand. 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.

What People Are Saying:

"...a prescient film today as the nation reckons with the meaning of calls to defund the police and the search for alternatives to the systemic racial inequities of the carceral system... a remarkable film."
Renee Tajima-Pena Filmmaker/Oscar Nominee

"Seven Square Miles powerfully reveals conditions of poverty and limited opportunity that give rise to community tensions that draw in police. (It) comes at a precise moment of heightened relevance and impact by showing what human compassionate community based policing looks like"
Jay Craven Filmmaker /Director Sarah Lawrence College Filmmaking & Moving Image Arts Program

"The film possesses a remarkable intimacy with its subjects."
Charlies Musser
Filmmaker/Professor Yale Film & Media Studies Program

"...we can't arrest our way out of this problem" Alexis Durlacher Trenton NJ Police Detective

  • LJ Frizell
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Genres:
    Criminal Justice, Social Issue, WOmen, Race, Policing, Documentary
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 12 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    June 15, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    70,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Toronto Independent Film Festival 2021
    September 9, 2021
    North American Premiere
  • International Social Change Festival 2021
    United States
    October 2, 2021
Director Biography - LJ Frizell

Lorna Johnson-Frizell
Lorna Johnson Frizell (LJFrizell) is a filmmaker who works in both experimental and documentary forms. Her first film Strands (1993) was screened nationally at a number of festivals nationwide, including the Atlanta Film and Video Festival, Women in the Director’ Chair, and the Ann Arbor Film and Video Festival. Her film My Wolverine (1998) won a Jury award at the Mill Valley Film Festival and won awards from the National Black Programming Consortium. Her 2004 documentary Freedom Road profiles women prisoners in a memoir writing workshop has been broadcast nationally, and featured on the local Emmy award winning program Due Process in New Jersey. Freedom Road is currently in distribution at Women Make Movies. In 2007 she produced Just Another War, which looked at the impact of the Iraq war on three women’s lives. It has screened at the 2008 Athens Film Festival and the 2009 Montreal Human Rights Film Festival. She has won awards from the Mill Valley Film Festival, the National Black Programming Consortium and has been invited to present her work at Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University, George Washington University and the Montreal Human Rights Film Festival. Most recently she was the recipient of the 2012 Leeway Transformation Award granted to an artist whose work demonstrates a commitment to social change. She has also been nominated for a 2021 Mid Atlantic Regional Emmy for a web based interactive video project.

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Director Statement

We are in a moment in American history where there is recognition of the over-incarceration and over-policing of communities of color. We are in a moment where cities are actively discussing de-funding police and ensuring tax dollars are directed toward programs that serve these communities. Seven Square Miles shows what can happen when police work proactively with community leaders to help the communities rather than penalize them. The film chronicles both the struggle and the rewards of supporting people who have been impacted by poverty and mass incarceration and also documents the narrow precipice, upon which , programs such as these reside.