How can film inform and engage the public in critical environmental issues that affect human and animal lives across the globe?

The Arts Residency offers a unique opportunity for students to explore with Helfand and Siegel the power of film as a medium of environmental and social change. In the team-taught course, Green Screen, students will be encouraged to rethink the ways in which cinema has shaped how we see, think about, consume, and politicize nature in the past, present, and future. In Non-Fiction Story Telling in Pictures, Moving and Still, students will receive hands-on training in the art of visual storytelling. With the basics of film production in hand, students will go out into the state to find absurd, funny, sad, and surprising stories that connect to the theme “What is natural about Wisconsin?” Students will showcase what they find at Tales From Planet Earth, an environmental film festival to be held in Madison, November 2–4, 2007.

Tales From Planet Earth is a journey across the globe to celebrate visual storytelling as an art form that shapes our understanding of nature and inspires action on behalf of environmental  justice and the diversity of life. The festival will feature the first Madison showing of Gold and Helfand’s latest film, Everything’s Cool, a hot new documentary about global warming. The film, an incredible story of a handful of global warming messengers speaking out in a time of disinformation, takes on the ultimate challenge—to show how urgent the situation is—while leaving audiences both optimistic and inspired to take action.

Black and white photograph of a seated woman.

The film festival will also preview, Fire, Burn, Babylon, Siegel’s latest work-in-progress film that follows a crew of Montserratian Rastafarians who once lived in spiritual retreat in the Soufriere hills. After a volcanic eruption destroys their island home, they resettle in London and reinvent themselves as ‘rude-boy’ rappers and small-time hustlers on the night-club circuit. Will their dreams of celebrity be realized before the law catches up with them? Find out at the festival!

In a time of unprecedented environmental change, Judith Helfand and Sarita Siegel, through the Arts Residency, invite us to ask: How can art transform stories of nature, science, and social justice into action and hope?