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From ecotopia to ecopocalypse: View eight student films

September 9, 2014

In 2013, visiting artist-in-residence Alex Rivera and UW-Madison professor Gregg Mitman taught an environmental filmmaking class, From Ecotopia to Ecopocalypse: Telling Digital Stories About the Environment, which led upper-level undergraduate and graduate students through the process of creating short fiction films on a theme of environmental futures. 

Kaitlin Fyfe, a lecturer in the Department of Communication Arts, assisted in teaching the technical components of the course. The results are the student projects below that cut across multiple issues and tell innovative fiction and science fiction stories, using a combination of student footage and "found footage" available in the public domain. All films were shown as trailers at Tales from Planet Earth 2013.

Memory Paste

Memory Paste explores the consequences of solutions to growing population and food production and distribution systems that focus on efficiency, cost, and physical nourishment. Set in an unknown time, a young girl and her mother live in a world in which they struggle to survive the elimination of knowledge and cosmology embedded in food no longer available to them. Directed by Diana Macias.


In a world of scarcity where national parks are being protected from people, a simple act from childhood has grave consequences for a man trying to teach his son the habits he learned from his father. Directed by Melissa Charenko.

Bee Guardian

Bee Guardian explores the growing movement to preserve bee habitat by keeping honey bees without the honey production element. The film's fiction accelerates the ongoing demise of honey bee populations to imagine a near future without bees, where strawberries have become a rare, precious commodity. Directed by Mallika Nocco.


Earth has become an ecotopia. In the face of climate change, people voluntarily took on the challenge to adapt and mitigate its effects and live more sustainably. Everyone except for the few who refuse until government intervenes and forces them to assimilate. Directed by Kat Cameron

The Translator

A sonic translator working for the Biodomes' Living Archives receives an unusual shipment. A mini film by Jojin Van Winkle, first year MFA graduate student in UW's Department of Art. Actor, Martha E. White. Directed by Jojin Van Winkle.


In the future, energy is a precious and regulated commodity. Directed by Lulu Maslowski.

Dying for Happiness

In the near future, a spider-silk futures trader goes to the clinic for happiness treatments. When the doctor injects him with nanobots to modulate his autonomic nervous system, things go sideways. The results are beautiful ... and surprising. Directed by Chris Limburg.

Two Planets

Utopia and dystopia, dream or reality? Directed by Hua Ming.