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About Tales from Planet Earth

Tales From Planet Earth showcases global environmental films with the mantra that issues don't move people, stories do! To that end, we try to link compelling narratives to the work of scholars and to engagement efforts of community partners advocating for environmental and social justice. The highlight of our efforts is a biennial film festival thematically journeying around the globe to explore how stories told through film can shape our understanding of nature and inspire action on behalf of environmental justice and the diversity of life. Building on the success of the festival, Tales from Planet Earth also involves community and campus outreach throughout the year, including issue-based community film screenings.

To date, our four festivals -- 2007 on the theme of Hope, 2009 on the theme of Justice, 2012 on the theme of Environmental Soundings, and 2013 on the theme of Futures -- have collectively drawn almost 14,000 festival-goers. We have screened more than 150 films set in 42 different countries and on all 7 continents! Our next festival will take place November 6-8, 2015, curated around the theme of Knowing and Believing.

Judith Helfand and students in one of the Tales from Planet Earth film classes, fall of 2007Over the years, the festival has co-sponsored with the UW Arts Institute interdisciplinary Artists-in-Residence, who have trained novice student filmmakers and community organizers to create films and to use the festivals' storytelling to benefit community groups in Wisconsin through outreach campaigns. Invited artists so far have been Sundance and Peabody Award-winning filmmakers Judith Helfand, Sarita Siegel, and Alex Rivera.

Tales from Planet Earth has a newly-added 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.