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About Tales from Planet Earth

Tales From Planet Earth showcases environmental films from around the world on the belief issues don't move people, stories do! To that end, we link compelling narratives of films to the work of scholars in the academy and to the engagement efforts of community partners working for environmental and social justice in Wisconsin. The highlight of our efforts is 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 environmental justice and the diversity of life.

To date, our four festivals -- 2007 built around the theme of "Hope," 2009 built around the theme of "Justice," 2012 built around the theme of "Environmental Soundings," and 2013 built around the theme of "Futures" -- have collectively been seen by almost 14,000 festival-goers. Our next festival will take place in Madison in November 6-8, 2015.

In 2013, Tales from Planet Earth added 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 -- tales about the planet were shared across the planet! We were also thrilled that a frequent guest of the festival, filmmaker Alex Rivera, returned for the Fall 2013 semester as Fall 2013 Arts Institute Interdisciplinary Artist in Residence, teaching a course on filmmaking for students.

Judith Helfand and students in one of the Tales from Planet Earth film classes, fall of 2007Building on the success of the festival, Tales from Planet Earth involves community and campus outreach throughout each year, including issue-based community film screenings and visiting filmmakers. In addition, undergraduate and graduate courses offered through UW-Madison 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, as well as taught the history of American environmental filmmaking.

Tales from Planet Earth 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.