Tales from Planet Earth

Tales from Planet Earth (TfPE) originated more than a decade ago as a film festival under the direction of Gregg Mitman, Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History of Science, Medical History, and Environmental Studies, UW-Madison. Historically, TfPE has tried to link compelling narratives to the work of scholars and community organizations advocating for environmental and social justice.

This year, during the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies Year of the Environment which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Nelson Institute and the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the Institute will offer a series of film screenings throughout 2019-20 to highlight critical environmental topics.

The Return of Navajo Boy
Friday, November 15, 2019
5-7 p.m.
Chazen Museum of Art

Join us for a 20th anniversary screening of the documentary film, The Return of Navajo Boy. A Sundance Film Festival & PBS selection, this documentary unlocks the mystery of a silent 1950s docudrama called “Navajo Boy” and exposes a hidden environmental crisis facing Navajo residents. This documentary tells the story of Elsie Mae Begay, who, while viewing the vintage film about her family in Monument Valley, identifies her baby brother who was adopted by white missionaries in the 1950s and never heard from again. She says his name is John Wayne Cly.

Elsie and her family’s story offers a different perspective on the history of the American West, showing the ways in which indigenous voices change the meaning of stereotypical images found in Hollywood Westerns, postcards, and, a propaganda film made by a uranium mining company. Against all odds, The Return of Navajo Boy, reunites a Navajo family and reveals the long-term legacies of radioactive contamination, all while uncovering the hidden history of the American West. A 15-minute epilogue follows the end credits.

A subsequent web series sponsored by the Bradshaw-Knight Foundation of Madison shows how this documentary triggered a federal investigation, the first EPA clean-up of an abandoned uranium mine in the Navajo Nation and a billion-dollar legal settlement.

A discussion featuring Navajo speakers will highlight the documentary's lasting impact:
  • James Adakai, President, Oljato Chapter, Navajo Nation
  • Elsie Mae Begay, Navajo Nation
  • John Wayne Cly, Navajo Nation
  • Jeff Spitz, Director & Co-Producer, Groundswell Films

    For more information on the film visit the web site.

    Presented in collaboration with:

    Outrider Foundation
    CHE logo
    Bradshaw Knight Foundation
    Wisconsin union Directorate Society & Politics Committee
    Groundswell Educational Films

    Anthropocene: The Human Epoch
    Wednesday, September 25, 2019
    7-9 p.m.
    Union South Marquee Theatre

    This film will showcase the provocative and unforgettable experience of our species’ breadth and impact. Watch the award-winning team of Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, and Edward Burtynsky as they follow the Anthropocene Working Group, an international body of scientists who, after nearly 10 years of research, are arguing that the Holocene Epoch gave way to the Anthropocene Epoch in the mid-twentieth century, because of profound and lasting human changes to the Earth.

    This FREE viewing is a part of a nationwide screening event on September 25, that coincides with the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City.

    View the file trailer here.

    Film run time: 87 minutes

    Presented in collaboration with:

    Outrider Foundation
    CHE logo
    Bradshaw Knight Foundation
    Wisconsin union Directorate Society & Politics Committee