A new film debuting on the streaming video service Netflix chronicles the lives of Puerto Rican refugees living in our borough after Hurricane Maria.
‘After Maria’ follows the lives of three Puerto Rican families living in a motel near Mosholu Parkway and Webster Avenue after being displaced from the island by Hurricane Maria and coming to New York to escape the devestation.
It premiered on Netflix on Thursday, May 24 and is now available for streaming to its subscribers.
The documentary is the work of Soundview-based filmmaker Nadia Hallgren, who said she was motivated to look at the issue in part due to her own Puerto Rican heritage, and because of her relationship with her grandmother, who migrated from the island years ago.
It focuses on three women who became friends while living on the same floor of a motel after leaving the island because the response from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was insufficient, said Hallgren.
“It is a story about these mothers trying to cope in this new environment and the beautiful friendships that they build,” said Hallgren.
The 36-minute original Netflix movie was filmed May through September 2018, and got a very positive reaction at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it was selected, said its director.
“It tells the story of regular people who meet after a natural disaster,” said Hallgren.
She added it also explores the ways in which many believe FEMA didn’t offer the same level of support to people in the commonwealth of Puerto Rico as it did to those faced with similar natural disasters in mainland U.S.
The director believes that since Hurricane Katrina, the federal government has provided high levels of support to victims of natural disasters, except in the case of Hurricane Maria, which primarily affected Puerto Rico.
The film highlights how each of the families faced a crisis after their FEMA assistance for victims ran out, and homelessness became the only option for all three.
“They felt the real fear that anyone would feel about being homeless,” said Hallgren, adding “it was incredibly stressful for all of them.”
In many other states, which don’t offer homeless assistance, they wouldn’t have had a roof over their heads at all, said the filmmaker.
The families are also dealing with a jarring change in their lifestyles, much of which is portrayed in ‘After Maria.’
In Puerto Rico the women, and in two of the families their husbands as well, had jobs and a home, as well as a more stable home life.
The film focuses on the joy, strength, and resiliency that these women showed in terms of the serious adversity that they face, said the filmmaker.
“It was inspiring,” said Hallgren of how the women cope, adding how grateful she was for the access the women gave at a time when they were very vulnerable.
Hallgren said that when she completes a photography project on ‘After Maria,’ she plans to pursue a film fellowship in California.