La Fábrica de Ideas

A community builds for sustainability, post-hurricane...

Project type: Nonfiction Feature
Project status: Production
Director: Karen Rossi
Producer: Emma Crow-Willard
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Without power for six months following Hurricane Maria, and dependent upon importing materials from overseas for their public elementary school students, a small mountain community in Puerto Rico begins to transition towards autonomy by transforming an abandoned building next to the school into a solar-powered factory where they will build the items they once imported.


Six months passed without power at the public Montessori school in Aibonito after Hurricane Maria. Students studied by daylight, teachers passed out food, water, and small solar lamps to parents, and to anyone in the community who needed it. Next door, the abandoned building that was once a rehab center lay quiet, roofless, caked in mud, the basketball court unused for years. Maria Pastor, who works at the Instituto Nueva Escuela, a non-profit that manages public Montessori schools in Puerto Rico, talks to Janice, the principal of the school. The community has wanted to transform that abandoned building into something for years. Now might be the chance. The Instituto has been purchasing supplies for classrooms from overseas, Mexico, the US. Why not create those supplies right here in Puerto Rico? Why not transform that building into a fábrica (factory) where community members could work and develop valuable skills and the Instituto could purchase the materials they create for the students to learn? La Fábrica de Ideas follows the community in Barrio Pasto over the course of the three years following Hurricane Maria as they transform the school, the abandoned building, and their own mindset into one of self-sustainability and energy autonomy.

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Meet the Filmmakers

Karen Rossi – Director

Karen Rossi is a Puerto Rican, Emmy-award winning director and producer. She produced and directed Isla Chatarra (Scrap Island, 2007) which was sponsored by the first edition of DocTV Iberoamérica and won a Suncoast Chapter Emmy for Best Cultural Documentary. She directed the short documentary film Algo más (Something more, 2009) for the television series Zona Franca (Open Spaces), and produced the series Son tuyos. Defiéndelos (It’s your right. Defend it, 2014), also awarded an Emmy. In 2018 she premiered her first feature length documentary film Set Grande (To be Great) with her production company Aurora Docs.

Emma Crow-Willard — Producer

Emma Crow-Willard is a National Geographic Explorer, former NASA scientist, and founding member of Roots of Unity Media, a production company designed to tell stories highlighting women, people of color, and science. In 2017 she traveled 400-miles by bicycle around Montana, Alberta, and British Columbia interviewing miners, ranchers, and National Park staff to create a film about people from different backgrounds working across boundaries to preserve the ecosystem, the land, and their livelihoods. Crow-Willard directed the Environmental Film Festival at Yale and worked with the United Nations Environment Programme to create films about sustainable off-grid housing, with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby to advance a carbon fee and dividend policy, and with the IUCN to bring indigenous people to the table in conversations about land conservation. In addition to La Fábrica de Ideas, she is currently producing Climate Refugee Stories, a multi-media narrative, archiving, and education project to shine light on stories of people around the world who have been displaced by climate change-related stressors.

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