The short film Passaic is a flashback to gritty times in northern New Jersey. It’s centerpiece, two murders that resulted in what would be the longest murder trial in state history at the time. There's still unanswered questions. The case remains unsolved.
“To this day people that are involved in the case know that the truth never came out,” said Michael Klausner, writer and producer of the film Passaic.
The movies characters have different names, but the real-life story remains the same. Its main character isn’t the newspaper publisher accused of murder, but a reporter from a competing paper. That reporter is Michael’s father Howard Klausner.
“He was one of the few reporters that thought it was a set up. He felt that the real murderers were overlooked. My father thought he was going to win a Pulitzer for writing this story. But his publisher ended up firing his editor for trying to publish the story. Nobody wanted this competing newspaper publisher to gain ground or be vindicated. They were looking to bury him. My father was trying to report on the truth which is very elusive.”
Set to the backdrop of corruption, Klausner says the film is really a father-son story.
“He got harassed. The brakes of my mother’s car were cut, my father got shot at. People used to call the house saying they were looking to buy family plots. It was a very strange time and I never knew about this. When my father passed away I actually found a lot of these old stories, clippings, and writings he did. This was a great backdrop, but it also helps me understand my relationship with my father. I never really knew the truth of what was going on. He was an award-winning journalist that wrote about the truth all of the time. I found it very strange. This is my way to find redemption about that relationship.”
Several characters depicted in the film are still alive today, but Michael Klausner says he’s not concerned for his safety, like his father was in the 1960’s.
“I did get a few people who said maybe I shouldn’t tell this story more. Maybe I had something wrong. I know the person who is the publisher, he’s a big philanthropist now and he runs a film festival.”
Michael Klausner submitted Passaic to that film festival. He says it was rejected. It has been accepted to the upcoming Montclair Film Festival in April.