2009 Community Engagement

Schedule Speakers Sponsors Community Engagement

Tales volunteers pitch the festival's community engagement events at the Farmers' Market

In November 2007, the Nelson Institute’s Center for Culture, History and Environment (CHE) partnered with Working Films to host the inaugural Tales from Planet Earth, Wisconsin’s first environmental film festival. Nearly 3,500 people participated in 25 free film screenings and discussions over three days, and many left inspired and motivated by what they saw. We, the organizers, ended the first festival wondering how to mobilize that energy into action.

In particular, we wanted to ensure that, when the lights came up and people felt motivated to do something, their efforts would be directed to local issues at home. In order to harness Madisonians' overwhelmingly positive response to the first festival, CHE and Working Films envisioned the 2009 Tales from Planet Earth as a community and film festival in which numerous partners — organizations right here in Madison — would actively shape and use the festival as a platform for civic engagement.

Students from Troy Gardens sing an 'Ode to Dirt' as part of a screening of 'What's On Your Plate?

For the 18 months leading up to the 2009 festival, the folks at CHE developed and nurtured relationships with these community partners. We held dinner-and-a-movie nights, screened rough cuts of films in progress, and identified where and when there was resonance, synergy, and an emotional connection between a film, a local community partner, and its constitutents.

All of this groundwork — from relationship-building, to brainstorming, to field-testing engagement strategies, to audience feedback — became the community-based bedrock not only for Tales From Planet Earth, but also for "Community Engagement Through Film," a graduate/undergraduate-level class taught in lock-step with the community engagement side of the festival. The foundation of the course was Working Films' methodology for how to leverage a film festival — from the press to the "ask" — and puts Working Films' central question — "What can this movie do for your movement?" — into rigorous local service.

Students in our classes took these initial ideas and ran with them, turning Tales from Planet Earth into a fun, inclusive, and transformative event to engage communities and build more equitable, just, and healthy environments in which people live work and play. Click on any of the community events below to learn more about their broader social justice context and our relationship with the community partners.

Community Events at the 2009 Festival


Special Screening - Thursday, November 5

Filmmaker Alex Rivera visited Centro Hispano for a special pre-screening of his film Papapapá with a series of shorts made by young members of Centro Hispano! Thursday, November 5, at Centro Hispano, 810 W. Badger Road.

Bagels with a Birder - Saturday and Sunday, November 7 and 8

More than two dozen birders (neophytes and avi-philes alike!) shared bagels, coffee and incredible birding opportunities with some expert Madison birders. Saturday & Sunday, November 7 & 8, at Picnic Point.

Kid Gardeners - Saturday, November 7

Dozens of Madison kid gardeners met the star of What’s on Your Plate?, Sadie Rain Hope-Gund, and learned more about Community Groundworks at Troy Gardens. Following the screening of What's on Your Plate?, Saturday, November 7, at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

What's On Chef Tory's Plate? - Saturday, November 7

L'Etoile Chef Tory Miller gave What’s On Your Plate? audience members a cooking demo, interactive ingredient display and some tasty local treats! Following the screening of What's on Your Plate?, Saturday, November 7, at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

Share the Shares - Sunday, November 8

The Share the Shares initiative by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition (MACSAC) raised funds to purchase multiple CSA shares that were then donated to the Centro Hispano and First United Methodist Church (FUMC) food pantries. Organizers from MACSAC, Centro Hispano and FUMC discussed the initiative and local food and hunger issues after the screening of The Hunger Season, Sunday, November 8, at First United Methodist Church. In addition, after The Hunger Season several dozen audience members shared a special meal that was part of a new national engagement project being built around the film, called "Meal & A Movie in a Box," which was designed through Tales from Planet Earth's pilot screening of the film in October 2008.

Strange Weather - Sunday, November 8

Several festival-goers shared their own stories about climate change and "strange weather" with student filmmakers for a student project, while learning about UW climate change research during our Strange Weather activities Sunday, November 8, at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

Wild Madison - Sunday, November 8

After our screening of The Adventures of Chico, audiences enjoyed "Wild Madison: local stories 'wild, harrowing, and romantic'" about Madison's own wildlife and the people who have saved, rehabilitated, and set them free through the Four Lakes Wildlife Center. Sunday, November 8, UW Cinematheque.

A Hot Discussion about Social Capital - Sunday, November 8

A vibrant and well-attended discussion about social capital - creating it, growing it, canning it, and leveraging it in times of crisis - occurred with members of Chicago’s Growing Home (featured in Cooked), Madison’s Porchlight, and Madison & Dane County public health professionals after the Sunday, November 8, screening of Cooked at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

Free Tasting of Porchlight Products - Sunday, November 8

Cooked patrons crossed the street from the theater for a free tasting of Porchlight Products at Espresso Royale Cafe. The positive reaction to Porchlight's products contributed to tremendous success in improving Porchlight's profile in the area, as people learned how it provides meaningful employment for Porchlight clients creating high quality foods made from fresh, local ingredients! Sunday, November 8, at Espresso Royale Cafe.