Ethics And Aesthetics – Framing The Deliberate Lie

By Professor Herman van Eyken

As filmmakers and film teachers we share neither an aesthetic nor an ethic. Even more tragically we make films and teach others to make them without relating the one to the other. How the practice became separated from the purpose or the aesthetic from the ethic, predates the invention of the medium. Our schools could, and perhaps should, be the place where every next generation is reminded of that essential relationship, but our curriculum not only separates form from content, it hardly ever confronts the question of how the one affects the other.

For more than half a century, CILECT has held a biennial Congress, hosted by a member school after a bidding process. Welcoming close to 200 delegates from more than 60 countries across all continents, 180 schools, over 60.000 students and more than 1.600.000 alumni, it is a complex process.

In an age where both religion and political ideology have lost their all pervasive influence, how do we build an effective aesthetic wedded to a commonly held ethical system and provide a foundation for media that has other than a negative influence in a troubled world?

CILECT (Centre International de Liaisons des Ecoles de Cinema et de Television) -  the International Association of Film and Television Schools,  is strongly committed to maintaining the highest possible standards of audio-visual education in its member schools by establishing and organizing global and regional forums for the exchange of managerial, pedagogical, methodological and research best practices.

CILECT Congress 2016; picture courtesy of CILECT

CILECT Congress 2016; picture courtesy of CILECT

In February 2015, the CILECT Executive Council, functioning a little as the United Nations of Film Schools, decided, that after a decade of mainly discussing matters of technology and the digital age,  it was indeed time to dedicate some energy to these rather important philosophical matters. It became the theme of the biennial CILECT Congress, hosted by Griffith Film School and held in Brisbane from 20 to 24 November 2016.

For more than half a century,  CILECT has held a biennial Congress, hosted by a member school after a bidding process.  Welcoming close to 200 delegates from more than 60 countries across all continents, 180 schools, over 60.000 students and more than 1.600.000 alumni, it is a complex process.  Each Congress encompasses several general assembly meetings, presenting and allowing in new members schools by vote (a record of 15 in Brisbane!), changes in statutes, regional and executive reports, elections, and regional meetings.

It also includes the prestigious “CILECT Teacher Awards”. From the Asia Pacific Region, 86 year old Japanese film critic, theorist and historian  Professor Tadao Sato of the Japan Institute of the Moving Image gave a wonderful lecture, Rebuilding Empathy through University Curriculum, from his long time experience in his school, co-founded with the illustrious Imamura.

The most important recognition for our students however is “The Cilect Prize” Award ceremony. This year it was a double bill, including both a CILECT Prize Award 2016 ceremony and a Retrospective Award “Ten Years of CILECT Prize” Award ceremony. For this prestigious Award, every member school submits one documentary and/or fiction student work – and if relevant, an animation short film. Then all these entries are distributed to all the member schools, they screen them and vote for the best (5) entries.

CILECT Executive Director, Prof. Stanislav Semerdiev prepares to award Prizes: picture courtesy of CILECT

CILECT Executive Director, Prof. Stanislav Semerdiev prepares to award Prizes: picture courtesy of CILECT

With the ‘business side’ of the association completed, we could finally dedicate the last 3 days of the gathering to focus on how we teach our students to work with specific CONTENT (political, social, cultural, religious, etc.) or within a specific CONTEXT (peers, teachers, industry, audience, etc.) in relation to Ethics and Aesthetics.  Such a rich topic required a wide variety of angles if we were to explore the maze of issues thoroughly. Alongside the always popular breakout sessions and papers and presentations from member schools, the Congress featured keynotes from global leaders in film making and film education.

With the ‘business side’ of the association completed, we could finally dedicate the last 3 days of the gathering to focus on how we teach our students to work with specific CONTENT (political, social, cultural, religious, etc.) or within a specific CONTEXT (peers, teachers, industry, audience, etc.) in relation to Ethics and Aesthetics. Such a rich topic required a wide variety of angles if we were to explore the maze of issues thoroughly.

An emotionally compelling and surprising opening keynote by Denmark based US film director Joshua Oppenheimer, best known for his Oscar-nominated films The Act of Killing (2012) and The Look of Silence (2014), revealed his search for the right metaphor that crystalizes through his thorough research methodology and the need to make the invisible visible. Other highlights included a well articulated keynote by our very own Gillian Armstrong advocating for immediate action for gender equality; Taiwan’s Peggy Chiao Hsiung-Ping, documented and demystified China as the Wonderland for film makers and Bruce Beresford explained how he works rather by instinct than intellect.

Rolf de Heer defined how to pick a style, Jose Baghaleiro, from Portugal clarified on how to teach students to film the nude, Lord David Puttnam, in a 90 minutes seminar, declared his love for the musical, and Pauline Clague spoke about protocols and the 5 beats of Aboriginal Storytelling.

Lord David Puttnam delivering his presentation For The Love of Cinema  to a packed theatre; picture courtesy of CILECT

Lord David Puttnam delivering his presentation For The Love of Cinema  to a packed theatre; picture courtesy of CILECT

A true feast for our eyes and ears, accompanied in the evening with the joys of the Opening of the Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards Ceremony, an eye-opener indeed for most of our guests who did not realize that the Asia Pacific region not only represents half of the world’s population live but claims the most vibrant film making community too.

CILECT is dedicated to a philosophy which recognizes the inherent inter-connectivity of mankind and believes in the need of constant practical support to creativity, diversity, cross-cultural thinking and sustainable development as fundamental prerequisites to our human existence. I think the Brisbane CILECT Congress made the people in our region proud, even if framing a deliberate lie.


Professor Herman Van Eyken is Chair of CILECT Asia Pacific Association (CAPA) and Head of the Griffith Film School, Griffith University.  With a background in script writing, producing and directing, he has directed more than 190 films and is a multiple award winner of international festivals such as Cannes, New York or Montreal. In 2005, he founded Singapore’s first film degree and headed the PUTTNAM School of Film at LASALLE College of the Arts. He curated the first Asia Pacific Symposium on Creative Post Production (2012) and the Inaugural Conference of the CILECT Asia Pacific Association (CAPA) (2014). He was appointed President of the Asia Pacific Animation Association in Beijing, China in 2014 and was the Congress Director of the CILECT Congress on Ethics and Aesthetics in 2016. His research interests lie in the area of film policies, cross cultural collaboration, curriculum design, internationalization of curricula and film training needs for professionals.