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Screenshot of Google World MapTales From Planet Earth returns to Madison November 6-8, 2015!

Our theme this year is Belief. Our beliefs are what we know to be true. What we know to be true guides our choices. Yet our beliefs about the environment have complex origins that complicate our responses to environmental crises. Environmental beliefs are shaped by experiences: at home, at work, at play. But they are also shaped by ideas – learned from religion and spiritual faith, from science, and even from popular culture like films. Tales 2015 will explore all these influences by which we arrive at our environmental beliefs and the ways our beliefs spur and sustain environmental action across the globe. Our programming is divided into 5 sub-strands of different themes.

Curious as to where this year's films hail from? Check out the map above. Meantime, like us on Twitter and Facebook to stay abreast of all the latest festival news. Please note: film selections subject to addition and change. All films are shown unrated.


Twitter #tfpe Follow @TalesFilmFest and @NelsonInstitute for festival news and updates.

Opening Night

Cesar's Last Fast (2013)

Richard Ray Perez, Lorena Parlee (100 min., color, Blu-Ray, U.S.)

Cesar's Last Fast screenshot By any reckoning Cesar Chavez is an American hero. For more than three decades he led pioneering efforts to protect worker rights and safety among agricultural workers who had long been exposed to grueling and often dangerous working conditions for little pay. Incorporating many of the same tactics for pursuing social justice as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, Chavez helped organize strikes, union drives, non-violent protests, and pilgrimages. And yet, surprisingly, in his own eyes Chavez felt that he had not done enough for his fellow workers. And so in 1986 at the age of 61 he embarked on a 36-day "Fast for Life" to bring further awareness to worker exposure to pesticides. This moving film uses this fast as a lens to understand the life of Chavez, including the religious roots of his activism, while sharing never-before-seen home footage from his fast. A powerful film to start our weekend examining the complexities of human beliefs. Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
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Resilience

The ability to withstand adversity, change, and injustice is not easy. It requires great certainty in one's beliefs and an endurance to persist through long struggles. This strand focuses on resilience -- exploring the beliefs and institutions that give individuals and communities the strength to persevere.

Angel Azul (2014)

Marcelina Cravat (72 min., color, DCP, U.S., In English and Spanish with English subtitles)

Angel Azul screenshot Jason deCaires Taylor is an artist with a mission -- to try to save the perilously endangered coral reefs off Mexico, which face threats ranging from global warming to algae to excessive cruise ship traffic. So how can he save them? And how can mankind explain to future generations our complicity if the reefs end up dying? Taylor's elegant solution to these challenges is to create resilient artificial coral reefs from statues cast from local human models. This audience award-winning documentary chronicles the many challenges facing reefs while also showing the start-to-finish creation of perhaps Taylor's most beautiful sculpture yet -- the angel. Official selection of a dozen film festivals, including the D.C. Enviromental and San Francisco Green Film Festivals. Contains brief partial nudity.
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Fenceline: A Company Town Divided (2002)

Slawomir Grünberg (52 min., color, DVD, U.S.)

Fenceline: A Company Town Divided screenshot How you feel about the local oil plant in Norco, Louisiana depends on who you are and where you live. If you're Sal Digorolamo, a white retiree from a long family tradition of working for Shell, the plant is a beneficent gift of employment and security for the town. If you're Margie Richard, a retired African-American teacher who lives next door to the plant and experiences escaping gasses and flares, you view the plant with fear and resentment. When Richard and her neighbors in the all-black Diamond Community petition Shell to acknowledge the plant's impact on their health and to offer a fair relocation plan, their journey will take them all the way to the Hague in Europe and back and reveal how one town contains two separate communities who have to come to terms with each other. Official selection of the D.C. Environmental, New Orleans, and San Francisco Green Film Festivals.
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Unogumbe (Noah's Flood) (2013)

Mark Dornford-May (35 min., color, DVD, South Africa, In Xhosa with English subtitles)

Unogumbe screenshotTales from Planet Earth has always sought to expand the definition of "environmental film" beyond the usual genre of issue-documentaries. And this year we have found an especially novel genre in the realm of environmental film -- opera. In this soaring rendition of Benjamin Britten's "Noye's Fludde," Mark Dornford-May and his company of South African singers and musicians transpose the 1958 opera telling the story of Noah's Ark to modern day South Africa. This classical Biblical tale of resilience and survival is seen through a mixture of live action re-enactment, shadow puppets, scenes from a rehearsal of the opera, and a performance of the opera itself, all beautifully sung in Xhosa. A can't-miss film in this year's festival! Nominated for Best Short at the Berlin Film Festival.
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Knowing

Knowledge is a tricky thing -- to conduct ourselves on a daily basis we must accept some certainties that we know to be true. But how do we come by our certainties? And how do we convince others of those truths? These films explore different ways of knowing the world -- through science, through sounds, through bodily engagement, through film itself -- and the challenges in confronting our doubts in an uncertain world.

Anima Mundi (1992)

Godfrey Reggio (28 min., color, DVD, U.S.)

Anima Mundi screenshotAre we looking at them or are they looking at us? The opening minutes of Godfrey Reggio's Anima Mundi present a series of extreme close-up visions of animals staring at the camera, seemingly returning our gaze. Yet as cultural critic John Berger famously observed, even though humans desire to be seen by other animals, we must come to terms with the fact that other animals do not reserve a special look for humans. So why do we look so closely at them? Are we merely one among many species or are we special? What animates them and us? In this poetic work commissioned for use by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and featuring a score by Philip Glass, Reggio explores the world of wildlife -- giving us a new way through film to know the other species that populate our world. One of two films at Tales 2015 highlighting Reggio's work. (Screens with Still Life and Killers in Eden)

Containment (2015)

Robb Moss, Peter Galison (82 min., color, DCP, U.S., In English and Japanese with English subtitles)

Containment screenshotDeep beneath Carlsbad, New Mexico, lies the world's only licensed, operating radioactive waste site. Savior of the town? Bulwark against global warming? Or a nuclear gamble for 10,000 years? And what can the recent nuclear disaster at Fukushima tell us about the prospects of safely handling nuclear waste at all? Containment explores the scientific, moral, and philosophical problems that surround the disposition of nuclear waste and the history of our efforts to safeguard the future from the wastes of our energy choices today. Following up on our "work-in-progress" screening of the film at Tales in 2013, this return engagement reveals a finished picture that offers an ideal exploration of questions of doubt, certainty, belief, and faith as they relate to modern science.
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The Great Invisible (2014)

Margaret Brown (93 min., color, Blu-Ray, U.S.)

Great Invisible screenshotThe Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico was the worst oil spill in American history: 176 million gallons leaked over 87 days. But while this fact is undeniable what people believe about it and think they learned from it depends entirely on who they are. Margaret Brown's critically important film follows people from the entire arc of the story from the platform workers who question the drilling company's hubris about safe drilling practices to the out-of-work oysterers who question how BP and the government are compensating them for their losses. Brown finds oil executives who know that Americans don't really want to give up their gas-powered cars and food pantry workers who know that people just want to survive regardless of what type of energy economy we're in. In short, as Salon notes, it is a "quietly devastating" film, a moving, complex portrayal of an entire region of the country shaken to its core twice in the last ten years. As one individual in the film wryly observes: "[Hurricane] Katrina just wiped their house away and blowed in about 27 foot of water. But the oil spill really put a damper on everything." Winner of prizes at the SXSW and Full Frame Film Festivals.
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Killers in Eden (2005)

Klaus Toft (52 min., color, Digital File, Australia)

Killers in Eden screenshot If the old adage is "seeing is believing," then why do we so often have a hard time believing eyewitness accounts of events? Certainly many scientists have doubted the legend of killer whales in the small Australian town of Eden. And yet locals like Elsie and Alice vividly remember this extraordinary history of a period of several years in the early 20th century when wild killer whales led by "Old Tom" would work in concert with human whalers to herd baleen whales to where they could be harpooned. In return, the people would leave parts of the whales behind for the wild orcas to feed upon. Can such a human-animal partnership really form spontaneously and with forethought and planning on the part of whales? And why did it finally end? That's what director Klaus Toft aims to find out through this innovative exploration and re-creation of the legend of the "Killers in Eden." (Screens with Anima Mundi and Still Life)
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Koyaanisqatsi (1982)

Godfrey Reggio (86 min., color, 35mm, U.S.)

Koyaanisqatsi screenshot Godfrey Reggio's innovative cinematic work, including the Koyaanisqatsi trilogy, is hard to classify. But its impact on viewers is undeniable, combining exquisitely observed and filmed scenes from around the world of people's interactions with their environment and with each other. Slowly out of this amalgam of hypnotic imagery emerges a powerful statement on the human condition and our sense of spiritual connection and disconnection. While it may seem to be a simplistic screed against human despoilation of the planet, the film invites a more complex assessment of the place of man, science, and faith in and out of nature. One of two films at Tales 2015 highlighting Reggio's work. Filmmaker scheduled to be in attendance.
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NoBody's Perfect (2008)

Niko von Glasow (84 min., color, DVD, Germany, In German and English with English subtitles)

NoBody's Perfect screenshotDirector Niko von Glasow has never been comfortable with his body. He is one of an estimated 10-20,000 "children of thalidomide" worldwide -- people born with significant limb abnormalities due to in utero exposure to the drug thalidomide, which was prescribed to women in many countries in the 1960s as treatment for morning sickness. But von Glasow discovers that other people living with the effects of thalidomide exposure have more varied relationships to their bodies and their bodily understandings of chemical exposure. Some like Kim let nothing stop them, finding love and success as a politician. Others remain shy and self-doubting, like Stefan, the wheelchair-bound astrophysicist. Ultimately von Glasow decides there is only one way he can reclaim his sense of self and body -- shoot a nude calendar of 12 people affected by thalidomide (himself included!) and present the finished product to the company that manufactured the drug. Winner of Best Documentary at the German Film Awards. (Screens with Notes on Blindness)
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Notes on Blindness (2014)

Peter Middleton, James Spinney (13 min., color, Digital File, U.K./U.S./Australia)

Notes on Blindness screenshotWhat's it like to be blind? To lose one of the key senses by which we build our understanding of the world around us? Peter Middleton's and James Spinney's hauntingly beautiful film accomplishes two things. First, it presents the narration of writer and theologian John Hull, who in 1983 began losing his sight and recorded three months of audio diaries to provide insight into the sensation of blindness and his new way of knowing the world. Second, the film re-creates in creative and innovatively visual ways the interior world of the blind. Nominated for Best Documentary Short at the SXSW Film Festival. (Screens with NoBody's Perfect)
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Still Life (2014)

Johannes Krell, Florian Fischer (12 min., color, DCP, Germany)

Still Life screenshot The "nature film." This genre has been around almost as long as the history of cinema itself. Over the decades, "reel nature" has influenced many people's beliefs and understandings of "real nature," often presenting nature as action-packed, colorful, and entirely separate from humanity. In this unusual short, Johannes Krell and Florian Fischer overturn the conventions of the nature film, making strange the familiar as they alternate between movement and stagnation, hypnosis and realism, naturalness and artificiality. Official selection of ten film festivals, including the Hot Docs Film Festival. (Screens with Anima Mundi and Killers in Eden)
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Under the Dome (2015)

Chai Jing (103 min., color, Digital File, China, In Chinese with English subtitles)

Under the Dome screenshot Who doesn't like a good TED talk? They're informative and entertaining glimpses of world-changing ideas. But can such a talk by itself change the planet? Chai Jing is a former journalist with China Central Television. Earlier this year, she self-financed and released online a filmed version of her TED-style talk documenting her investigations into the dangers of China's extreme air pollution. In a measured and dispassionate style laced with conviction, she pleads to see her country recognize and fix this problem. And she has a personal motivation: while in utero her child developed a tumor that may have resulted from Chai's exposure to air pollutants. Sharing this information may not seem radical to American audiences, but in China it has created shockwaves -- the film was downloaded or watched more than 300 million times on Chinese sites in one week, leading the government to block all transmissions of the film in China. So maybe raising one's voice just to talk really can change the world. Film screening to be followed by discussion of Chinese pollution and government led by UW faculty.

Retreat

The impulse to retreat from the pressures of daily life must be a near universal one at times. So what are we really seeking when our retreat takes us into that hard-to-define world called "nature"? And why do we so often define nature as a place, separate from daily life and also one of greater authenticity? This strand of films focuses on the concept of retreat across time and cultures.

All the Time in the World (2014)

Suzanne Crocker (88 min., color, Blu-Ray, Canada)

All the Time in the World screenshot "We thought: three kids, nine months, small cabin, no other kids? They're going to drive each other crazy." Instead what filmmaker Suzanne Crocker and her partner, Gerard, discovered on their 9-month family retreat in the Yukon wilderness (with Sam, aged 10; Kate, aged 8; and Tess, aged 4) is that time alone allowed them all to become more independent and more connected to each other at the same time. Whether it's figuring out how to trick-or-treat without neighbors or facing down a nosy black bear, the family repeatedly finds new ways to come together. In the end, this contemplative film reveals a journey into a world where the pressures of time temporarily cease to matter and where one can instead re-discover what is most essential and important. Winner of festival awards at the Wild and Scenic, Vancouver International, and Planet in Focus Film Festivals. (Screens with The Wild Life)
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Into Great Silence (2005)

Philip Gröning (169 min., color, Blu-Ray, Germany, In French with English subtitles)

Pad Yatra screenshotIn 1984, a German filmmaker contacted the Grande Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps about whether he could film their lives of asecticism and devotion. They said they would get back to him. Sixteen years later, they were ready to respond. For six months, Philip Gröning lived with the monks in their retreat from the world, observing their routines and rituals as they moved through sacred space of light and quiet. The result is this remarkable film -- a portrait of a life of meditation and devotion but also a work of art in its own right, lacking score, voiceover, or any archival footage. The Los Angeles Times calls the film a transcendent, transporting experience," while the New York Times declares that it is "utterly spellbinding." Winner of a Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize.
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Lazy Lama (2012)

Niko von Glasow (30 min., color, Digital File, Germany)

Lazy Lama screenshotBuddhism has a tradition of retreats lasting "three years, three months, and three days." But in our modern helter skelter society, can anyone really afford to take that much time off? Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, a Buddhist master of the Kagyu Order, thinks the answer is yes. Indeed, meditation and self-reflection to find compassion and humility are the best antidotes to what spiritually ails so many. And so this monk, nicknamed the "Lazy Lama" for his insistence on slowing down, is opening a center for Western guests to embark on this traditional form of retreat. Will they last the full three years? How will they cope with the silence? With each other? With themselves? An honest, moving but not sugar-coated appraisal of the demands that self-reflection makes. (Screens with Pad Yatra)

Pad Yatra (2014)

Wendy J.N. Lee (72 min., color, Blu-Ray, India/Nepal/U.S., In English and Tibetan with English subtitles)

Pad Yatra screenshotIn 2010, Ladakh, India was ravaged with a cloudburst -- several inches of rain falling in sixty seconds, leading to catastrophic mudslides and devastation. This weather was not normal: global climate change has drastically altered the Himalaya, critical source of water for a large proportion of the world's population. To raise awareness of these environmental challenges facing the Himalaya, His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa, one of the region's main Buddhist spiritual leaders, decided to lead 700 people on a pad yatra -- a pilgrimage of 450 miles across the mountains. Crossing altitudes of more than 17,000 feet and stopping to pick up more than 1000 pounds of trash along the way, the pilgrimage inspires a global movement of further eco-Pad Yatras. This film joins one woman inspired to participate, Carrie Lee, on a journey of faith and commitment that has won audience and cinematography prizes at the Big Bear, Stuttgart Indian, Houston Indian, Docutah, Feel Good, Silent River, and Blue Ocean Film Festivals. (Screens with Lazy Lama)
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Walking the Camino (2013)

Lydia Smith (84 min., color, DCP, U.S., In English, French, and Spanish with English subtitles)

Walking the Camino screenshot Since the 9th century A.D., pilgrims from across Europe have walked the Camino de Santiago -- the way across northern Spain to the Santiago de Compostela where a shrine to the remains of St. James sits. Today, more than 200,000 people every year from across the globe set out on the more than 500-mile journey. Along the way, they stay in hostels known as albergues and receive food and medical treatment from volunteers, gradually becoming a mobile, extended family of fellow travelers. This uplifting, moving, and at times funny film offers the story of six different pilgrims each overcoming blisters, bad knees, heartache, self-doubt, or addiction to discover something inside themselves -- a renewed sense of self, of time, of space, of family, or even of romance. Winner of festival and audience awards at the American Documentary, Rainier, Newport Beach, Hollywood, Ft. Lauterdale, and Mt. Hood Film Festivals. (Screens with Vultures of Tibet)
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The Wild Life (2011)

Amanda Forbis, Wendy Tilby (14 min., color, DVD, Canada)

The Wild Life screenshot The year is 1909 and the world beckons. For one English dandy, a comet streaking through life without much gravitas, the wild frontier that calls him is Alberta. Here he settles down to begin life playing cowboy. To the locals, he is a curious if harmless phenomenon. To his family back home, he is the wayward son trying to find himself. And what is he to himself living "in the wild"? Well, nature has an unforgiving way of sorting these things out. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. (Screens with All the Time in the World)

Belonging

Are you a Wisconsinite? A Madisonian? An American? How do you decide that you belong to a place or community? And how does that community decide that you are one of them? This strand of programming focuses on belonging -- the rituals, beliefs, customs, and knowledge that allow people to create a sense of home and community and the challenges for immigrants and displaced peoples trying to claim that they, too, belong in their communities.

Atlantic (2014)

Jan-Willem van Ewijk (94 min., color, DCP, Luxembourg/Belgium/Morocco/Netherlands/Germany, In Arabic with English subtitles)

Atlantic screenshotThe Atlantic Ocean plays an outsized role in this gorgeously filmed drama -- barrier, backdrop, gateway, and home. Fettah is a Moroccan windsurfer who has spent years watching European tourists come and go, seeing his beachfront community as a place of play. But he feels imprisoned in his small village and sees the Atlantic as his outlet to a better tomorrow as an immigrant in Europe. So he sets out one day on his surfboard to seek out a new life -- but looming is the crossing over open water between Morocco and Gibralter in Spain. In an era when thousands of African refugees are trying to immigrate across the Mediterranean (often with tragic results) seeking to belong in Europe, this intimate drama offers a glimpse into the motivations of a single such individual. Nominated for awards at the Toronto, Netherlands, Marrakech International, and East End Film Festivals.
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Butter Lamp (2013)

Hu Wei (16 min., color, Digital File, France/China, In Tibetan with English subtitles)

Butter Lamp screenshot Go look at your last "selfie" on Facebook or Instagram. What is the picture of your life that you've offered the world? How does that compare to reality? In this elegantly simple and yet profound short film, we see dozens of Tibetan nomadic families gather to have formal family portraits taken by an itinerant photographer and his assistant. Each family can choose the backdrop to be filmed against and their choices are quite revealing -- rather than pictures of home, they choose pictures of aspiration -- grand temples and crowded city streets -- to reflect perhaps where they wish to belong rather than where they are. A beautiful short so real to life you'd swear it was a documentary. Nominated for a 2015 Academy Award for Best Short Film, Live Action and winner of awards at over 20 film festivals. (Screens with Transit)
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Himself He Cooks (2011)

Valerie Berteau, Philippe Witjes (66 min., color, Blu-Ray, India/Belgium)

Himself He Cooks screenshot Every day, the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar, India faces a daunting task: preparing and serving 50,000 free meals for anyone who needs one regardless of race, religion, or class. But this act of charity is also an act of community -- with hundreds of volunteers seeing to the work of the temple from top to bottom, from heating the cooking fires in the morning to cleaning the dishes at the end of the day. Amid these rituals, a powerful sense of belonging and faithfulness emerges, beautifully captured in the lush cinematography of this documentary. Winner of the Earth Grand Prix prize at the Tokyo International Film Festival and featured at the Margaret Mead Film Festival.
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May Allah Bless France! (2014)

Abd Al Malik (96 min., b&w, Blu-Ray, France, In French with English subtitles)

May Allah Bless France! screenshot Based on director Abd Al Malik's own experience, this is a portrait of Regis, a passionate Congolese teenager trying to lead a double life in the projects of Strasbourg, France with the ultimate goal of making it as a rap artist. On the one hand, he is commended for his hard work in school and has a crush on his sweet neighbor, Nawel. On the other hand, he is the leader of a gang of pickpockets who prey on tourists to finance their music group and who keep urging him to move into the drug trade. But when tragedy strikes, Regis converts to Islam, only to discover that religious faith doesn't automatically bring clarity to the many parts of his identity, especially in a French society that barely tolerates religious diversity or its colonial immigrant population. Winner of the International Critics' Award at the Toronto Film Festival and nominated for two César Awards (French equivalent of the Oscar Awards).
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Sepideh -- Reaching for the Stars (2013)

Berit Madsen (91 min., color, Blu-Ray, Denmark/Iran/Germany, In Persian with English subtitles)

Sepideh -- Reaching for the Stars poster“I believe that if you want something bad enough, it will happen." This is the encouragement that Sepideh, a determined teenage girl living in Iran desperately craves. Sepideh has a dream -- to be an astronaut, or at least an astronomer -- just like her heroes, Albert Einstein and Anousheh Ansari (the first Iranian in space). But as director Berit Madsen ably captures in this intimate documentary, everywhere Sepideh turns she meets with resistance. From school to family, people repeatedly tell her that her dreams are not appropriate for a young girl in a conservative Muslim society. But over the course of several years, she feistily perseveres, continuing to sneak out at night to marvel at the sky and finding an ally among her teachers at school. In the end, the film leaves you pondering the future of both Sepideh and an Iranian society experiencing turmoil and upheaval about its fundamental beliefs and values. Official selection of the Sundance and IDFA Film Festivals.
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Transit (2014)

Hannah Espia (93 min., color, Blu-Ray, Philippines, In English, Hebrew, Filipino, and Tagalog with English subtitles)

Transit screenshotMoises is just a single dad trying to make a life for his 4-year old son, Joshua. Janet is just a single mom trying to make a life for her teenage daughter, Yael. But for these four living as an extended family, plus Janet's newly-arrived friend, Tina, nothing is simple. That's because all are Filipino immigrants living in Israel at a time when the Israeli government has begun deporting children of migrant workers. In this drama that lingers with you long after you leave the theater, you'll witness several days in the life of this family, seeing the events and experiences from each person's perspective and discovering the challenges of trying to belong as an outsider in a society as culturally unique as Israel. See why The Hollywood Reporter calls the film a "powerful" look at children "living in the shadow of their parents' anxiety and caught in between conflicting identities." Winner Best Film and Director at the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, Official Selection of the Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, Jewish Jerusalem, Hong Kong Asian, and Busan Film Festivals and Philippines' entry to the 86th Academy Awards. (Screens with Butter Lamp)
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Vultures of Tibet (2013)

Russell Bush (21 min., color, Digital File, U.S./Tibet/China, In Tibetan and Chinese with English subtitles)

Vultures of Tibet screenshotIn parts of Tibet there is an ancient funeral tradition of "Sky Burial," where families feed the bodies of their deceased in ritual ceremonies to wild Griffon Vultures -- allowing the body to nourish and benefit the natural world. But this ancient tradition is under threat -- from tourism. In a moment when grieving families want to focus on the sacred, they increasingly are encountering the profane -- Chinese tourists with their video cameras and tour guides, jockeying to capture the ritual as something grotesque. This documentary short is at times beautiful and at times shocking, but always it provides an incisive lens onto larger questions of modern Tibetan identity and politics today. Official selection of the AFI Docs, Edinburgh, and Palm Springs Film Festivals. (Screens with Walking the Camino)
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Sacrifice

A martyr is one who sacrifices everything for a larger cause. The sacrifice may be final -- one's actual life -- or total -- setting aside all of one's own personal desires. In the end, each individual can only decide for him or herself whether martyrdom is worth it; but the challenges and conflicts that inspire martyrs often roll on, with or without them. This strand of programming focuses on the sacrifices individuals have made in support of their idea of the "greater good" for environmental activism around the world.

Above All Else (2014)

John Fiege (95 min., color, Blu-Ray, U.S.)

Above All Else screenshot "You go up against a bully, you challenge them honestly. And what does a bully do? They just punch you." David Daniel isn't an activist or political by nature, he's merely a landowner in East Texas dedicated to his family and the home he built himself. Above all else, he wants to deal fairly. So when representatives from TransCanada come and say they have the permits in hand to pursue eminent domain for a right-of-way for the Keystone XL Pipeline across his property, he signs their forms. But when he finds out they didn't actually have the permits yet, he decides to fight back. This is the compelling but sobering account of David's fight, aided by his neighbors -- Julia, Eleanor, and Susan -- and a band of committed national activists. It is a fight for justice motivated by a belief that people should be treated fairly and not intimidated by power. It is a fight he must take on. But is it a fight he can win? Official selection of more than two dozen film festivals, including the SXSW, Hot Docs, and D.C. Enviromental Film Festivals.
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I Am Chut Wutty (Work-in-Progress)

Fran Lambrick, Vanessa De Smet (54 min., color, Digital File, U.K., In Khmer with English subtitles)

I Am Chut Wutty screenshot Who is Chut Wutty? He is an environmentalist, fighting to save the last remaining intact forests in Cambodia from illegal logging and encroaching rubber plantations. He is an activist, photographing illegal logging operations while training the next generation of Cambodian environmentalists from among local residents. He is a martyr, gunned down in broad daylight in front of members of the media documenting his work. Who is Chut Wutty? In this rough cut, work-in-progress screening, director Fran Lambrick shows us that he is the embodiment of Margaret Mead's famous saying: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Filmmaker scheduled to be in attendance.
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Roots of Heaven (1958)

John Huston (121 min., color, 35mm, U.S.)

Roots of Heaven posterMorel is a man on a mission: save the elephants! But this isn't the 1970s or 1980s when the decimation of elephants and the effects of the ivory trade are world news. This is the 1950s in French Equatorial Africa and his quixotic quest to protect elephants is met with bemusement, puzzlement, and derision by most of his compatriots. The only exceptions are the prostitute Minna, the boozy ex-British military man Forsythe (played by Errol Flynn), TV commentator Cy (played by Orson Welles), and the journalist Abe -- all of whom see something in his cause worth fighting for and following. A forgotten film from one of America's master filmmakers, this is a glimpse into the costs and trials endured by martyrs who dedicate themselves to environmental causes.

TOXIC: Amazon (2011)

Felipe Milanez, Bernardo Loyola (65 min., color, Digital File, Brazil, In Portuguese with English subtitles)

TOXIC: Amazon screenshotZé Cláudio and Maria -- environmentalists, nut collectors, residents of New Ipixuna in Brazil, and martyrs. In May 2011, two gunmen killed this couple, perhaps not coincidentally on the same day Brazil's government voted to decrease national forestry protections. In this first-person account, director Feilipe Milanez, a personal friend, reveals their lives in the months before their deaths and follows the investigation into their murders. He also explores the violent struggles now taking place between squatters, foresters, government agents, and environmental activists -- all guided by their own beliefs and values about what the future direction of the Amazon should be. Filmmaker scheduled to be in attendance.

Closing Night Films

The Babushkas of Chernobyl (2015)

Holly Morris, Anne Bogart (72 min., color, DCP, U.S., In Ukranian and English with English subtitles)

Babushkas of Chernobyl screenshotOn April 26, 1986, reactor #4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine catastrophically exploded, leading to the deadliest disaster in the history of nuclear power. Huge quantities of radiation spewed into the atmosphere and settled across the land. Eventually, more than 160,000 local residents were evacuated and re-settled. Nearly 30 years later there remains a 30-kilometer exclusion zone surrounding the plant in which no one is officially allowed to live. But an estimated 200 people, most of them women, have snuck back in and defiantly refused to leave the homes in which they still feel they belong. This film is a touching exploration of the present-day lives of these resilient survivors -- among them 72-year old Valentyna and 80-year old Hanna -- who have faith and refuse to give up even when their souls and bodies endure the all-too-real threat of continued radioactive contamination. An affectionate paen to survival, this film ties together many of the themes we are exploring throughout this festival. The Hollywood Reporter perhaps best sums it up, calling it a "haunting and strangely uplifting" exploration of some of the "tougher people on the planet." Official selection of the Los Angeles Film Festival.
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Merchants of Doubt (2014)

Robert Kenner (96 min., color, DCP, U.S.)

Merchants of Doubt screenshot Doubt. All of us live with it. And these days everywhere we turn we find more questions of doubt and risk -- uncertainty about everything from the chance of rain in the forecast to the health risks of coffee, baby bottles, air travel, sitting down, standing up, crossing the street . . . we can't escape doubts. But what we should be able to escape is "manufactured doubt" -- the deliberate manipulation of science and public discourse to muddy our understandings of certain risks. And as this incisive and compelling documentary based on Naomi Oreskes' book reveals, for more than 50 years American society has been suffused with doubt artificially manufactured by a small group working on behalf of corporations who stand to profit from our doubts about everything from cigarettes to asbestos to flame retardants to, most signficantly, global warming. Trust us: this closing film of the festival is ESSENTIAL viewing. Official selection of the Toronto, New York, and Telluride Film Festivals.
Visit the film's official website
View the film's official trailer