Issue 17, February 2011
homepage > The present and the future of audiovisual education
The present and the future of audiovisual education
By Rea Walldén,
Filmmaker, Ph.D. in Philosophy, member of the Scholarly Committee of the conference..
 

Education constitutes the foundation of all civilized society. It is a prerequisite, as well as a guarantee, for both continuity and innovation. Furthermore, it becomes an urgent necessity in times of crisis, as the ones we are experiencing. The importance of both general education and systematic high quality schooling concerns all cognitive areas and professional fields.

The demonstration and promotion of the importance of audiovisual education was the subject of the first international conference, entitled "The Importance of Audiovisual Education”, organised by the Hellenic Film Academy on the 19th and 20th November 2010, under the auspices of the Onassis Foundation, and with the collaboration of the Scholars’ Association, in the welcoming space of the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation.  

As explained by the conference Scholarly Committee, a film can change the way in which we see the world. Simultaneously, in an age in which we are inundated with images, knowing how to “read” the audiovisual language makes us less vulnerable to propaganda.

The Scholarly Committee, which envisaged, organised and coordinated the conference, consisted of three people: the acclaimed film-director Tassos Boulmetis, president of the Hellenic Film Academy and member of the Board of the Scholars’ Association; the acclaimed film-director Antoinetta Angelidi, vice-president of the Hellenic Film Academy and assistant professor in the Film Department at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki; and the undersigned.

The opening was honoured with the presence of the Greek Minister of Culture Pavlos Geroulanos and MP Pemi Zouni, who expressed their warm support for this initiative, the president of the Onassis Foundation, Anthony Papadimitriou, the vice-president, Ioannis Ioannidis, as well as the acclaimed film-directors Michael Cacoyannis and Costa Gavras.

Left: Tassos Boulmetis<br />
Right: Rea Walldén, Maria Komninos and Panayiotis Dendramis
Left: Tassos Boulmetis
Right: Rea Walldén, Maria Komninos and Panayiotis Dendramis

Distinguished Greek and foreign film theoreticians, researchers, teachers, critics and professionals were present at the two-day conference. Moreover, there was a significant participation of the former Scholars of the Foundation who are active artists in the field of cinema. A selection of their work was shown during the conference. Altogether, 19 Scholars presented short films or trailers from full-length films, on a variety of themes and durations (from less than a minute to half an hour): Ariadne Al-Kampf (Les Saveurs de la Cité), Gregory Vardarinos (Talking Piranhas), Maria Wiener (Real Life), Christos Godas (Dreams of Clay), Thouly Dosios (House of the Olive Trees), Nikos Thomopoulos (Fly Away, To be or not to be Bagyeli), Maria Kourkouta (Subway Preludes), Panagiotis Kyriakoulakos (Census), Eleni Constantinides (Molpé, Pourquoi les loups chantent à la lune, Les Yeux de Nathalie Jacar), Cristina Lazaridi (One Day Crossing), Ioannis Belimpasakis (Wasp), Nancy Biniadaki (Still Counting), Thanasis Sarantos (Μaria, The Glove), Petros Sevastikoglou (trailer from the film Three Moments), Vangelis Seitanidis (trailer from the film Beneath your make-up), Michalis Sifakis (I’m So Grateful, Thank you), Elina Fessa (Double Fault), Rea Walldén (Broken Anthem) and Tassos Boulmetis (trailer from the film Dream Industry).

“The conference achieved its main objectives”, said Tassos Boulmetis to AΩ.  "First of all, by ‘mapping’ the field of audiovisual education in Greece and bringing together the main people and institutions involved in this sector in our country. Moreover, it fulfilled the statutory clause of the Hellenic Film Academy regarding the promotion of the role of audiovisual education. Finally, the Onassis Foundation, which is the primary private body in Greece funding studies related to film, gave its scholars the opportunity to present their work to the wider public.”

Left:Maria Leonida, Menis Theodoridis,Nikos Tsagarakis and Katerina Evangelakou<br />
Right: Costa Gavras
Left:Maria Leonida, Menis Theodoridis,Nikos Tsagarakis and Katerina Evangelakou
Right: Costa Gavras

“The choice of this particular thematic for the first conference of the Greek Film Academy was designed to demonstrate the paramount importance given by the Academy to its educational role both in the film community and in Greek society”, said Antoinetta Angelidi. “The idea behind the conference determines the social significance of audiovisual education at two levels: first as provider of audiovisual literacy that will give citizens the ability to decode the messages they receive and second as a means of raising awareness, through aesthetic cultivation and contact with the art of cinema. Cinema is education and we need education about cinema."

The aim of the conference was to create dialogue between those involved in audiovisual education in Greece and explore all possible meanings of the term “audiovisual education”. This was the great success of the conference: for two days it hosted and brought together practitioners and theoreticians of the cinema, teachers and artists, conscious citizens and institutional bodies – all those constituting the complex and layered world of cinema, and especially in its educational dimension, people who typically work entrenched in their own narrowly professional fields.  The material presented at the conference was rich in content and of high scientific quality. Discussion between the delegates and the public was enthusiastic and productive. The organizers’ ambition is that the conference will serve as a first step towards further creative dialogue in the field of cinema.

Among the conference participants were four internationally renowned invited speakers and twenty-nine other speakers who responded to the call for papers. The speakers included acclaimed film-directors of different film kinds and styles, film-theoreticians and film-historians, teachers from all Greek universities that have departments or programs related to audiovisual education, teachers of primary and secondary education, the director of the Greek Film Archive and so forth. The public included film-makers, both older and younger generations, film-students and representatives of institutional bodies.  
The conference was divided into eleven sessions: four invited speakers and seven round tables. At the end of each session ample time was provided for discussion – unusually long by the standards of scientific conferences – as dialogue constituted a crucial choice of the conference organisers. The structuring of the sessions was thematic, so as to cover all the potential approaches to the term “audiovisual education." The first day of the conference was dedicated to the institutional framework of the issue, as well as its broader social dimension. The second day was devoted to education in its stricter sense, along with a more detailed theoretical discussion.

Left: Among other participants Costa Gavras, Rea Walldén, Jean Douchet and Antoinetta Angelidi<br />
Right: Henning Camre
Left: Among other participants Costa Gavras, Rea Walldén, Jean Douchet and Antoinetta Angelidi
Right: Henning Camre

The first contribution came from the invited speaker Henning Camre, the Danish executive director of the European Think Tank on Film and Film Policy who served as Director of the National Film School of Denmark and the Danish Film Institute, and who during his mandate was credited with the recent Danish cinema “miracle”.  Presenting his conclusions from this experience, Henning Camre spoke about the creation of a coherent film policy and analyzed all its dimensions. He stressed that film policy should not be limited to production, but encompass the education of professionals who constitute the foundations for production and also the education of the public, improving in this way the conditions for perception.

This was followed by the round table on “The role of institutions in audiovisual education”. Maria Komninos analysed the educational role played by cinematheques, as archives and also as museums and digital libraries. Then, she presented material from early Greek films from the collection of the Greek Film Archive. Panayiotis Dendramis presented a brief history of the legal framework of film education in Greek, noting the tragic delays and shortages, which have led to, among other things, overlapping regulations and jurisdictions.  This was followed by an open discussion on the need for a coherent institutional framework for cinema in Greece and the importance of the integration of theory in archiving practice. Grave concern was expressed about the future of the Greek Film Archive, due to the lack of relevant provisions in the new film legislation.

Left: Mary Ann Doane<br />
Right: In the front row (from the left) Michael Cacoyannis, Costa Gavras,  Pemi Zouni MP, Anthony Papadimitriou, Minister Pavlos Geroulanos , John Ioannides and Henning Camre
Left: Mary Ann Doane
Right: In the front row (from the left) Michael Cacoyannis, Costa Gavras, Pemi Zouni MP, Anthony Papadimitriou, Minister Pavlos Geroulanos , John Ioannides and Henning Camre

In the round table on “The use of audiovisual language beyond the art of cinema” were presented two exceptionally interesting cases of the use of audiovisual language by professionals who do not qualify under the traditional definition of filmmaker. Athena Peglidou spoke about the subject of video-ethnography at the University of Thessaly, i.e. the teaching of the use of audiovisual language as a means for anthropological and ethnographic research. Panagiotis Kyriakoulakos spoke about teaching the technical and creative side of animation production to product and system designers at the University of the Aegean.

The round table on “Audiovisual Society” was the most popular of the conference and explored the wider role of audiovisual education in society. The contributions by Irini Stathi and Kleanthis Danopoulos raised the theoretical framework of the discussion, examining the importance of audiovisual literacy for the active and informed participation of citizens in contemporary democracies. The contribution by Vassilis Bokolas examined the role of film in the construction of historical memory, while the contribution by Katerina Papageorgiou raised ideological issues on the presence of the human figure in film. Finally, Angeliki Grammatikopoulou and Christos Kallitsis presented specific case studies in which the medium of film is used as a means of awakening and creating awareness and a means of demanding rights for various citizen groups. Open discussion with the public further developed the theoretical and practical aspects of audiovisual literacy, and the need to introduce audiovisual education at primary school level was repeatedly stressed.

The day closed with the contribution by the invited speaker Jean Douchet. The French historian and film critic has been a member of the editorial team of the influential French journal Cahiers du Cinéma, which laid the foundations for the movement of Nouvelle Vague; he has also been director of the French National Film School I.D.H.E.C. and the French Film Archives. He has dedicated his life to educating the cinema public. His aim is to teach the skill of reading the language of film, enabling us to see what we do not usually observe in a film. His presentation was a lesson in film analysis, concentrating on how the writing of the film carries its subject.

The second day opened with the round table on “Audiovisual education in school”. The session was opened by Katerina Evangelakou who raised the issue of the philosophical distinction between perception and thought that permeates our educational system.  Menis Theodoridis spoke about the distinction between “Film Education” and “Mass Media Education” which constitute two different approaches to the integration of audiovisual education in schools. He argued for a combination of both approaches. Vassilis Kosmopoulos spoke about the pilot project “Melina – Education and Culture”, which involved educating primary school teachers on using art as a means of expression, with the aim of integrating it into the teaching of all subjects. He also mentioned the beneficial impact of the project on the local community of Chania, Crete. Maria Leonida presented a variety of audiovisual activities in primary and nursery education. Finally, Nikos Tsagarakis spoke about the problems and challenges of teaching film in art secondary schools. There followed a constructive discussion on the benefits and ways of incorporating audiovisual education into the educational system. Hope was expressed for the re-introduction and expansion of the Melina project and other related projects.

The round table on “Teaching in Film Schools” caused the most passionate debate of the conference and raised the question of how to teach future filmmakers. All contributors were teachers at Greek universities. Betty Kaklamanidou placed the Film Department at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki on the map of European Universities. Periklis Hoursoglou presented his experience of teaching the subject of Film Direction in the Film Department at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, focusing both on the creative work produced by the department and the practical difficulties it faces. Yannis Leontaris spoke about teaching acting-in-film in the Theatre Department at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and actor-guidance in the Film Department of the same university.  He noted the lack of education of Greek actors with regard to the peculiarities of the film medium. Angeliki Milonaki spoke about the necessity of teaching the History of Greek Cinema and about the subject she teaches in the Film Department at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Yannis Skopeteas in collaboration with Irini Stathi presented the Documentary Studies postgraduate program which is under construction at the University of the Aegean. The discussion with the public was opened by Vangelis Kalambakas representing the Education-Team of the “Filmmakers of Greece (FoG)”, who announced their intention to establish an experimental workshop on the art of filmmaking with the aim of investigating alternative ways to teach cinema. The workshop is to be taught by volunteer filmmakers, an initiative welcomed by all participants. The following discussion revolved around the theoretical and practical parameters of teaching cinema. Participants raised the issues of the differences between the subjects “Film Theory” and “Film”, the need for communication between theory and practice and the relationship and proportionality between the two – issues that were the source of controversy and conflict. Also discussed was the institutional operational framework of Greek universities and schools, the difficulties, the shortcomings and the needs of the departments, as well as the teaching methodologies.

This was followed by a presentation by the invited speaker Dimitris Eleftheriotis, Head of Theatre, Film and Television Studies at the University of Glasgow and member of the advisory editorial board of the influential British journal Screen. Dimitris Eleftheriotis spoke about the way in which University Film Studies are influenced by the change in the wider society’s relation to film language. He investigated how the redefinition of the concepts of “extraordinary” and “banal” affects the social legitimisation of Film Studies, due to the diffusion of audiovisual language thanks to new technology and new media.

The round table on “Extending the audiovisual language" turned its attention to film language itself, its potentialities and its mutations. The session was opened by the undersigned, who mapped philosophically the notions of "audiovisual language" and “art of cinema”, focusing on the redefinitions arising from contemporary theory and practice, as well as the introduction of new technologies. Giorgos Papakonstantinou further explored the convergences and hybridisms that characterize the audiovisual language at the beginning of the 21st century. Fil Ieropoulos argued about the way cinematic poetry develops and extends the audiovisual language. Finally, Emilio Mendoza from Venezuela presented a series of experiments on the visualization of music. Open discussion took place on what cinema is and what cinema could be, as well as on the definition of the concepts of cinema “research” and “experimentation”.

This was followed by the round table “Dialogue among filmmakers” where the acclaimed film-directors Antoinetta Angelidi and Fotos Lamprinos spoke with emotional intimacy and yet theoretical clarity.  Antoinetta Angelidi addressed a “letter to a young filmmaker”, in which she combined her personal poetics with theory, as well as her experience in teaching film-direction. She concluded with the exhortation: “Experiment; for life is too short to yield to the obvious.” Fotos Lamprinos spoke about the narrative affinities between literature and film. He suggested avoiding simplistic imitation or adaptation, and proposed instead an investigation into the structural affinities of the arts.

The conference closed with a presentation by the invited American speaker Mary Ann Doane, chair of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, member of the editorial team of the famous special issue on the female spectator, “The Spectatrix”, of the journal Camera Obscura, and one of the most important living film theoreticians, whose critical use of  psychoanalysis and feminist theory allows her to explore the relationship between knowledge and sexuality in film, as expressed in terms of visibility. Mary Anne Doane spoke on the readability of the female face in cinema, using examples from both classic Hollywood and the so-called experimental cinema, focusing on the way in which the cinematic image becomes a carrier of ideology.

  • Conclusions from the conference include:
  • The recognition of the complexity of the concept of “audiovisual education” which has many carriers and many recipients. 
  • The undoubted importance of audiovisual education, both as educator of the citizen and as educator of the film professional, for the future of a modern democracy.
  • The recognition of the valuable work being done by individuals, teams and institutions all across the country, and the need to co-ordinate and support these efforts.
  • The importance of an institutional framework, strategic policy and political initiative to develop audiovisual education in Greece.
  • The necessity of introducing audiovisual education at all levels of our educational system.
  • The importance of combining theory and practice in the education of filmmakers.
  • The need to theorise and to explore in practice the opportunities that arise from new media and new technologies.
 
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