Majora Carter, Hurricane Katrina film, to open Tales from Planet Earth festival

October 29, 2009

Noted "green collar" jobs and environmental justice advocate Majora Carter will kick off the 2009 Tales from Planet Earth community and film festival with a public talk, "Green the Ghetto and How Much it Won't Cost Us," at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6, in the Wisconsin Union Theater, 800 Langdon St. Her talk will precede a screening of "Trouble the Water," an Academy Award-nominated 2008 film featuring footage shot by an aspiring rap artist when she and her neighbors in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans were trapped by Hurricane Katrina. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times called "Trouble the Water" one of the best American documentaries in recent memory." A question-and-answer session with Carter and the film's directors, Carl Deal and Tia Lessen, will follow the screening. The University of Wisconsin Gospel Choir also will perform, and seven short films produced by UW-Madison students in an environmental filmmaking class will premiere. All events are free and open to the public. While the term "green-collar jobs" gains more press and champions daily, Majora Carter is one of the few people who have actually marshaled the resources to get unemployed Americans trained and placed on pathways out of poverty in this growing economic sector. Born, raised, and continuing to live in the South Bronx, Carter has traveled the world in pursuit of resources and ideas to improve the quality of life in environmentally challenged communities. She founded Sustainable South Bronx in 2001 and by 2003 had implemented the highly successful Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training (BEST) Academy� a pioneering green-collar job training and placement system � seeding communities with a skilled workforce that has both a personal and an economic stake in their urban environment. She currently operates her own green-collar economic consulting firm, hosts a nationally public radio series called "The Promised Land," and co-hosts "The Green" on the Sundance Channel. Carter's vision, drive, and tenacity earned her a MacArthur "genius grant" in 2005. She started 2007 as one of Newsweek's "25 to Watch" and ended the year as one of Essence Magazine's 25 most influential African Americans. The New York Post twice has named her one of the 50 most influential women in New York, and the BBC World Service has described her as New York's most influential environmentalist. The Nelson Institute Center for Culture, History, and Environment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is hosting Tales from Planet Earth in collaboration with Working Films, a national nonprofit organization that links the power of storytelling through film to cutting-edge activism. Running Nov. 6-8 at several campus and downtown venues, Tales from Planet Earth will feature more than 45 films from around the world. But festival director Gregg Mitman says the three-day event is much more than a traditional film festival. "When the lights come up, we want people to take the energy and inspiration of great storytelling to build community and effect positive social and environmental change," explains Mitman, who also is interim director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. "We hope to make the festival a new national model, using film to catalyze community action on broad-ranging issues." Two courses taught this semester by Mitman and visiting artist Judith Helfand, co-founder of Working Films, have paired budding student filmmakers and community organizers with the festival's Madison-area nonprofit partners to create films and outreach campaigns about these groups and their work in the community. Admission to the entire festival is free on a first-come, first-served basis; no tickets are required. For a complete schedule, visit