Resolution: Rutgers–Camden Scholar and Filmmaker Earns 2013 Rotary Peace Fellowship

Emmons-EXT-PhotoAs Robert Emmons puts it, he believes in the power of film as a tool of advocacy and change. In his documentary, Wolf at the Door, Emmons chronicles the fight of artist Jeff Filbert to save his Camden, N.J., home from eminent-domain demolition. In his film, On Mt. Peace, he aims to educate viewers about the historical and cultural significance of Mount Peace Cemetery in Lawnside, N.J., aiding in the effort to have the cemetery placed on the state and national registers of historic places.

“The goal of these films is to educate people in order to save something,” says Emmons, the associate director and assistant dean of the Honors College at Rutgers–Camden. “A documentary has the power to share someone’s story, and to give people someone’s perspective other than their own.”

Recognized for promoting cooperation, peace, and conflict resolution, Emmons has been named a 2013 Rotary Peace Fellow by The Rotary Foundation. He will be one of 21 leaders from various disciplines and organizations throughout the world to attend a peace and conflict resolution program at the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, from June 12 to August 30.

“I am proud to receive this honor,” says Emmons, a resident of Collingswood, who grew up in nearby Woodlynne. “I look forward to examining techniques focusing on peace studies and conflict resolution. I am interested to see how the documentary medium can be used in these processes.”

As part of the program, each fellow is asked to present a particular conflict-resolution scenario for discussion. Emmons will be opening a dialogue on the conflict surrounding marriage equality in New Jersey. By the time he arrives home, he hopes to have new ideas about how to bring the subject to a wider audience. “I want to bring new language to the discussion, and to analyze what film can do to help tell the stories of those affected by this issue,” he says.

For as long as he can recall, Emmons has been eager to tell the stories of others. He initially focused his career path on journalism – that is, until he took a film class at Camden County College. “I had an awakening; to me, the emotion that I could see and feel, and could put through that medium, was much more compelling than what I could do with just words,” recalls Emmons, who was honored by Camden County College last year as a distinguished alumnus.

Emmons went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in communication from Rowan University in 1998, graduating magna cum laude as the recipient of the Wanda Kaleta Medallion Award for excellence in cinema and media studies. He subsequently earned a master’s degree in liberal studies with an honors designation from Rutgers–Camden in 2001. For his thesis, he created a documentary, titled Enthusiast: The 9th Art, which explored comic-book culture in America. Emmons then earned a doctor of arts and letters in contemporary studies from Drew University in 2009. He received a distinction for his thesis, which consisted of a written portion, titled The Spirit of Documentary: Auteur, Audience & Ethics, and a film portion, titled De Luxe: The Tale of the Blue Comet.

While Emmons believes in the power of documentary, he is quick to note that he has never been interested in creating a fictional film. “There are just too many stories going on around us that I feel need to be told,” says Emmons, who notes that many of his documentaries are what he considers essential New Jersey stories.

Emmons is currently working on a documentary about Fredric Wertham and comic books in the 1950s called Diagram for Delinquents.

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