Somos la Luz

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

Project type: Documentary Feature
Project status: Production
Director: Gabriel Coss
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? Somos la Luz 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

Gabriel Coss — Director

Gabriel Coss is a Puerto Rican Grammy- and Emmy award-winning director and editor based out of San Juan. In addition to directing music videos for artists such as Nelly Furtado and Calle 13, his work includes the Emmy-winning biographical documentary Sonó, Sonó, Tite Curet about legendary musical composer Tite Curet and his legacy throughout Latin America and New York. Coss also directed Aljuriya, which examined the Israeli-Palestine conflict from the perspective of activists involved in the struggle against the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and Armonía, about the struggle of a small-town music teacher and famous Puerto Rican jazz musician working to save his community’s public music program. Coss has created films about community-based non-profits throughout the island such as Casa Pueblo, Instituto Nueva Escuela, and Proyecto Enlace del Caño Martín Peña, and works as a director, editor, and cinematographer for GeoAmbiente, a PBS and Sistema TV television program about the environment.

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 Somos la Luz, 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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