About Tales from Planet Earth

Tales From Planet Earth has showcased global environmental films with the belief that issues don't move people . . . stories do! We have tried to link compelling narratives to the work of scholars and community organizations advocating for environmental and social justice. The highlight of our work has been a biennial film festival thematically journeying around the globe to explore how stories told through film shape our understanding of nature and inspire action on behalf of the diversity of life.

Our five previous festivals -- in 2007 on the theme of Hope, 2009 on the theme of Justice, 2012 on the theme of Environmental Soundings, 2013 on the theme of Futures, and 2015 on the theme of Belief -- have collectively drawn more than 17,000 festival-goers and have screened nearly 200 films set in 46 different countries and on all 7 continents!

Tales from Planet Earth returned November 3-5, 2017 with the theme Land is Life. Standing Rock. Idle No More. The Landless Worker's Movement. Across the globe, land dispossession -- both past and present -- brought together new alliances and collective actions in the struggle for the rights and sovereignty of local peoples to determine their own futures. The 6th Tales showcased stories that informed, challenged, and inspired us to rethink relationships to land in an era when greed, corruption, and resource demands are swallowing up ancestral and customary lands, severing cultural traditions rooted in the earth, and threatening the livelihoods, sovereignty, and self-determination of communities throughout the world.

a group of students enjoy watching a film on a computer

Over the years, the festival has had many partners to enhance our programming beyond just the festivals in Madison. With the UW Arts Institute's interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence program, we have co-sponsored visits by environmental filmmakers who have trained novice student filmmakers to create films and to use the festivals' storytelling to benefit community groups in Wisconsin through outreach campaigns. Resident artists have included Sundance and Peabody Award-winning filmmakers Judith Helfand, Sarita Siegel, and Alex Rivera. We have also had an international partner, the KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, who screened many of our films in Stockholm in April 2014 -- sharing tales about the planet across the planet.

This project is a major outreach event of the Center for Culture, History, and Environment within the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Center's mission is to bring together faculty, staff, graduate students and others from a wide array of disciplines to explore changing relationships between people and environment over time. Because human interactions with the natural world are always mediated by institutions, politics, ideas, and values, an important component of the Center's mission is to understand how knowledge, beliefs, political economy, and culture have shaped, and been shaped, by the environment.