By Will Espero

Two Trentons: An American City Speaks is a story of a changing East Coast City directed by Brad Mays. This feature film from the USA depicts the ups and downs of a city that has transformed despite its past and known reputation. From a small town, to a bustling city during the industrial revolution, to a modern-day decline – a renaissance of multiple community actors gravitate to rebuild and invigorate a city with culture and the arts.

Activists, musicians, artists, politicians, entrepreneurs, community members, and planners embark on a mission to uplift Trenton and create new opportunities for all residents. With a history of violence and criminal activity in the city, criminal justice reforms, rehabilitation of released felons, and assistance to the needy are incorporated in programs and projects to assist high-risk individuals. Collaboration and communication amongst the education system, religious groups, non-profit organizations, and government are supported and highlighted in multiple interviews from various sectors.

The irony of urban renewal is exposed as new buildings and institutions are built at the cost of previous behavior, displaced populations, and traditions such as music and jazz clubs. Advocates share the challenges and positive results of their work and efforts, as well as the need to stay focused and work together for a common goal.

Two Trentons: An American City Speaks is about hope, promise, and the rebirth of a community and her residents as they create a better future.

Director Brad Mays

A veteran of dozens of stage, television and independent film productions spanning some thirty years, Brad Mays’ professional experience began with an internship at the McCarter Theatre’s resident repertory company in 1970 in Princeton, New Jersey. By the age of 18, he was directing main stage productions at Baltimore’s Corner Theatre experimental theatre company; during this time, he also became interested in film making.

In 1982, Mays moved to New York City, where he directed a number of off-Broadway stage productions, including Requiem by Linda Chambers, Dragon Slayer by Stanley Keyes, and the acclaimed The Water Hen by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz. During this time he also produced and directed his first feature-length film, Stage Fright, which was premiered at the1989 Berlin International Film Festival.

After relocating to Hollywood in 1989, Brad Mays worked in a variety of capacities: screenwriter, script doctor, post production supervisor, producer, editor and director. He also staged a number of highly-acclaimed and award-nominated theatrical productions: Joan by Linda Chambers, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as performed by the inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the direction of the Marquis de Sade by Peter Weiss, a highly controversial multimedia production of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, and the critically acclaimed 1997 hit production of Euripides’ The Bacchae, which he adapted to film in 2002.

In 2008, Mays completed work on the documentary film SING*ularity, a portrait of Ann Baltz’s world-famous OperaWorks training program for classical vocalists. Mays’ 2008 romantic comedy feature, The Watermelon, was featured at the 2008 San Diego Film Festival, was recipient of the Diamond Award at the 2011 California Film Festival, and is currently in national distribution. Other films include the feature-length political documentary The Audacity of Democracy, the multiple award-winning short A Way Back In, the award-nominated 2011 comedy web series Customer Diss-service, and the 2012 comedy short, The Donut Shop, winner of The People’s Choice Award at the 2012 San Francisco Black Film Festival, and Best Comedy at the 2013 San Diego Black Film Festival. 

In 2009, Mays was invited by producer Annie Wong to participate – along with Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka, theatre scholar Richard Schechner, and acclaimed actor Alan Cumming – in a discussion about The Bacchae for the acclaimed PBS series An Invitation to World Literature, which is now a permanent feature of Annenberg Media’s educational website.

May’s most recent feature films are the documentary I Grew Up In Princetown, a unique exploration of what life was like in the shadow of one of the world’s great universities during the cultural and political upheavals of the late 60s/early 70s; Road Rage, a bleak comedy about falling in hate, which premiered in March of 2016; Aiden’s Butterflies, a short film portrait of a young boy who is doing his part to save Moncarch Butterflies from extinction; and Jubilate Trego, a loving feature tribute to one of the greatest American choral directors of the 20th century. He is currently in pre-production on two feature films, Harry and Claire, an almost tragic love story. 

I went into this project with no set ideas about what the film was going to be, what it was going to say. My usual approach to documentaries is to just shoot as much footage as I can, and then allow the film’s themes to emerge, unabated – let the film speak to me during the editing process. One unexpected theme that came forth was that of mental illness on a massive scale.

Finally, I could never have anticipated the tragic art all night shooting. It happened on what was supposed to be my final day of filming, and it turned out to be one of the defining elements of the film’s narrative. Trenton is a beautiful city; an arts-driven city. It is also a town at war with itself. As such, it is a microcosm of America.

Brad Mays

Two Trentons: An American City Speaks is an Official Selection at the 2022 edition of the Global Nonviolent Film Festival, and it can be watched from September 29 to October 10 on globalnonviolentfilmfestival.comD!