Campus Productions is the student chapter of the Research Film Studio that grew out of an extracurricular filmmaking workshop co-taught by the award-winning director, Bence Fliegauf and Princeton professor, Erika Kiss in the fall of 2019.
The Curious Adventures of William Monroe Trotter
Woodrow Wilson was the most prominent intellectual of the white supremacist culture war waged against equal rights for Afro-Americans. Wilson propagated a falsified history of the Civil War and Reconstruction. He also glorified the Ku Klux Klan as the legitimate ruler of the South. As President, Wilson reshaped the federal government to reflect the general will of the Southern whites to dominate Afro-Americans and unleashed a state propaganda machine to change public opinion in the North that hitherto rejected white supremacy.
On the presidential campaign trail, Wilson made the promise to William Monroe Trotter, founder of the Equal Rights League, that, as President, he would uphold the law that granted equal rights to Afro-American citizens. Trotter then organized the black vote for Wilson, despite the latter being the candidate of the Democratic Party. Trotter first went to the White House in 1913 to remind the president of his promise of equality and freedom for Afro-Americans. Wilson made yet another empty promise to look into the complaint about segregation of the federal government, pretending that he had no knowledge of it.
Our first short film is a reenactment of the third meeting between Trotter and Wilson, as documented by official White House transcripts. Trotter this time sets a mousetrap for Wilson and actually catches the conscience of the king.
Our research-filmmaking method, in which artistic imagination is guided by disciplined scholarship, is best suited for the exploration of the cunningly covered-up, under-documented, falsified and disremembered history of the American people. In addition, the cinematic reenactment of Trotter’s successful outing of Wilson as the political force behind the legalization of segregation could be cathartic if screened on the Princeton campus.
Prince’ Noir, or, Tales from the Campus is a short film based on three actual events that took place on the Princeton campus involving black students during the time when Woodrow Wilson (then known as Tommy) was an undergraduate. Two of these stories can be found in the ‘Princeton Slavery Project‘ website and one in Barksdale Maynard’s Wilson biography. The film will retell these tales from pluralistic points of view creating suspense and some confusion. One of the stories, however, positively uplifting. When five Southern students presented James McCosh with the ultimatum that either they leave Princeton or he expels his black student from his psychology class, President McCosh answered that “they would have to go, for under no circumstances would he exclude the Negro from his class so long as he wanted to attend.” Prince’ Noir is a campus film – nothing can prevent us starting production in the fall. We have several award-winning directors lined up to advise us on Zoom.
This story follows the tumultuous relationship between Betty, a young Sunday schoolteacher, and Keith, a black Princeton student, as Princeton (both the town and university) go through a transitional period during the civil rights era. The onset of racial violence and recent assasination of John F. Kennedy dampens the excitement for the spring ‘68 commencement as the black townspeople and students grapple with these troubling times and Princeton University attempts to soothe the tension.
The next year ushers in a new era for the campus as female students are officially now admitted to the university. Yet, even with this progress, only ten black students have gained admission and still have to endure the ongoing racial pressures. Keith, a newly admitted student, instantly feels an overwhelming sense of hatred for the campus and finds refuge at the Trinity Church. Here, he forms a relationship with Betty who teaches him the hidden history of Princeton and its racist past. As their relationship progresses, Keith is inspired to become a revolutionary and join the many protests on campus against the Vietnam war, African Aparteid, and internal campus problems. His engagement with these issues comes with significant risks.
During all of this, the sanctuary of Princeton’s Trinity Church is threatened with racist demonstrations. Keith's future at the university is also often put under question because of his demonstrations which tests his relationship with Betty. Betty eventually realizes the gravity of the situation as she witnesses the radicalization of Keith. She leaves for New York to become a teacher and Keitch graduates and moves to California to become a Black Panther.