“This film celebrates a place I’ve come to know well over the years,” says Sandra Winther, the Danish filmmaker kicking off Survival Season—our program of films profiling the consequences of climate change. “Puerto Rico is home to passionate people, packed with mountains, caves, bays and reefs. Enclosed by bright blue water, this enchanting island bursts with the grit of life.”
When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, it took the lives of 3000 people and left the island without water and electricity. As the catastrophic effects of climate change continue to threaten every continent, islands have become the most at risk.
Puerto Rico, the 1949 poem by Victor Hernández Cruz that extols the virtues of the US territory lays the foundation for Winther’s film. The New York-based director pairs Cruz’s words with moving images of the people, homes and landscapes that belong to the island. “Shadow of a Hurricane captures the striking duality of Puerto Rico,” she says. “It’s a place of both beauty and loss.”
Puerto Rican culture may be unassailable but the island’s infrastructure continues to be vulnerable. Shadow of a Hurricane alludes to this by juxtaposing high-spirited street scenes with remnants of the hurricane’s devastation.
“Following what is considered to be the deadliest natural disaster to hit the island, the population has come together to rebuild as much as they can, as fast as they can,” says Winther. “But the threat still looms, not just here but amongst all coastal communities around the globe.”
Shadow of a Hurricane forms part of Survival Season, our special program charting the impact of human exploitation of the earth. Taking inspiration from the four classical elements—earth, air, water, fire—the films profile weather-beaten islands, the desolation of the earth’s natural resources, oceans clogged with plastics, and fires that rage as a consequence of global warning. Each film is a creative response to the harrowing effects of climate change, while reminding audiences that only humanity can be the fulcrum for transformation.