Camden Dean’s excellent paper, written for WR 100: “Global Documentary,” explores the destructive role that cameras play in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He focuses on the Academy Award-nominated documentary Five Broken Cameras (2011), which tells the story of a Palestinian farmer who films his fellow villagers’ protest against the Israeli wall erected on their land. We studied this film at a poignant moment in the semester. The Israel-Gaza conflict had ended four months earlier. And we had just studied One Day in September (1999), which revisits the 1972 Munich Olympics, where 11 Israeli athletes and trainers were taken hostage and then killed by Palestinian terrorists—an event largely streamed on live television.

The assignment’s sole requirement was that students pose and answer a question about any of our semester’s documentaries. After presenting an outline of his ideas and receiving feedback from the class, Camden began to write. Many of our theoretical readings helped to shape his ambitious argument—Jean Rouch on cinéma vérité, Michel Foucault on the Panopticon, Susan Sontag on the desensitizing effect that images engender. While drafting his essay, however, Camden started to question the direction of his argument and wondered whether he should abandon it. Peer reviewers stepped in to offer just the right kind of feedback, inspiring the counter-arguments that frame his position for a skeptical reader and motivating him to keep going. Camden’s ability to view the role of cameras in the West Bank from multiple angles gives his essay its rhetorical force and judicious tone. It was a pleasure to work with him on this essay and to read it again all of these months later.


WR 100: Global Documentary