NYWIFT Talks: Puerto Rico & Climate Change


Welcome to NYWIFT Talks, a weekly series to bring updated news and vital information about the impact of COVID-19 and current events on the media and entertainment industry. Industry professionals will be in conversation discussing what you need to know about theatrical releases, digital advances, virtual tools, festival opportunities, production updates and more. 

NYWIFT Talks are free for all to attend.

In this week’s NYWIFT Talks, we sit down with esteemed filmmakers, activists, and journalists in conversation about the climate change crisis in Puerto Rico. The effects of Hurricane Maria and Fiona along with the economic debt crisis has severely impacted life in Puerto Rico. Our guests will discuss how the current circumstances have impacted society and the creative industry. Puerto Rican society continues to thrive in spite of the detrimental environmental effects.

Our guests include Cecilia Aldarondo (Award-Winner Filmmaker), Frances Marie Medina (Defend Puerto Rico  and ADOC PR (Asociación de Documentalistas de Puerto Rico)) Kristian Mercado (Award-Winner Filmmaker), Laura M. Miranda, Esq., Kyara Morales-Rodriguez (Daily Eastern News), and Marisel Robles Gutiérrez (Comedores Sociales de Puerto Rico) to understand the current plight of Puerto Rico.)

Moderated by Marangeli Mejia-Rabell (Director of the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival)

Date: Tuesday, October 25, 2022
Time: 4PM ET
Cost: Free




Cecilia Aldarondo is a director-producer from the Puerto Rican diaspora who works at the intersection of poetics and politics. Her feature documentaries MEMORIES OF A PENITENT HEART (2016) and LANDFALL (2020) premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and were co-produced by the award-winning PBS series POV. LANDFALL’s many awards include the 2020 DOC NYC Film Festival Viewfinders Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary, as well as Cinema Eye and Film Independent Spirit Award nominations. Currently she is directing her third feature, a co-production with HBO. Among Aldarondo‘s fellowships and honors are the 2022 IDA Emerging Filmmaker Award, the Guggenheim, a two-time MacDowell Colony Fellowship, the 2021 New America Fellowship, and Women at Sundance 2017. In 2019 she was named to DOC NYC’s 40 Under 40 list and is one of 2015’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. She teaches at Williams College.
(Header Photo: Still from Landfall  directed by Cecilia Aldarondo
Trailer Link: https://itvs.org/films/landfall)


Frances Marie Medina believes that storytelling is transformative. With more than 10 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations and advocacy groups as a Communications and Development consultant, Frances has a keen understanding of how to innovatively maximize use of technology and digital platforms to connect people to issues they care about using storytelling as a tool.
Since 2017, Frances has collaborated as a Producer and Communications Strategist with Defend Puerto Rico, a collective of media makers and creatives. There she has directed and produced short documentaries and video series’ that amplify social justice movements leading advocacy efforts on the island. From 2019-2021 Frances also served as the Communications Manager for María Fund Puerto Rico, a resource mobilizer for nonprofits in Puerto Rico, leading the organization’s re-branding and fundraising efforts. Prior to this, Frances worked with the youth journalism platform Sparkaction, where she designed and implemented digital strategies and action plans for numerous national and local youth justice advocacy campaigns.
Frances graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelors in Sociology and a minor in American Culture.


Kristian Mercado’s distinct voice addresses issues of identity, family, and systemic oppression across race and class. His work is celebrated for its portrayal of working class struggles, highlighting love and loss. Mercado has directed content for Billie Eilish, Awkwafina, Bad Bunny, and Adult Swim, among others. He’s also directed comedy specials for Hannibal Buress, SNL’s Sam Jay and London Hughes for Netflix. Kris’s music diven short film Pa’lante  won the 2019 SXSW Film Festival Jury Award. His latest work was part of the Official Selection at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival with the Grammy-nominated music video Colors’ by Black Pumas and Hannibal Buress’s comedy special ‘Miami Nights. His short film Mariposa toured the 2020 film festivals with high acclaim. In 2019 Kris’s screenplay for his narrative feature film HawkBells received a screenwriting award from Slamdance. Recently his screenplay MELA was the recipient of a Cinereach grant and is currently in development.

For the past 33 years, Laura M. Miranda has effectively defended cases including DWI, Murder, Manslaughter, Criminal Negligent Homicide, Vehicular Assault/Homicide, Gang Assault, Assault, Drug Trafficking, Conspiracy, Weapons, Sex Crimes, Burglary, Robbery, Larceny, and White Collar crimes. Although her law firms are in NYC, 1 block North of the World Trade Center, & in PR, Ms. Miranda has sued & deposed in Guadalajara, Mexico; defended clients in CT, MA, NJ & PA, state courts, & PR Federal District Court. For over 15 years, Ms. Miranda has been hired by other law firms as a Consultant to assist in defending their clients. Ms. Miranda has advised on Voir Dire, Trial Strategies and Negotiated Plea-Bargains with Prosecutors on NY State & Federal felony cases. https://lawmiranda.com 

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez is a reporter for the Daily Eastern News, Eastern Illinois University’s student newspaper. Being a first-generation Latine woman, what guides her through life is her passion for education, accessibility, and inclusivity. Her focus as a reporter has been to provide a voice to those who need it and shed light on important social issues, especially those that are often overlooked. She has written nearly 200 news stories and opinion pieces covering a broad range of topics including the Covid-19 pandemic, environmentalism, social media, body positivity, pop culture, and issues impacting minority communities. Outside of her work as a reporter, Morales-Rodriguez is also an author who often writes fiction and nonfiction short stories that reflect her experiences as a Puerto Rican woman. In 2021, she received the Mary Jane Coartney Memorial Creative Writing Award for her nonfiction short story, “American Girl,” about her experiences as a young Latine girl trying to fit into American beauty standards, reflecting on the “perfect American girl” she wanted to be growing up and the pride she felt in the woman she ended up becoming.

Marisel Robles Gutiérrez is an activist and organizer with Comedores Sociales de Puerto Rico. Born and raised in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, she completed her university studies at the UPR of Mayaguez, where she had the opportunity to become radicalized by actively participating in the 2010 Student Strike. She organized the Mutual Support Center La Olla Comun in Río Piedras after  Hurricane María, and currently works at the Mutual Support Center of Caguas Pueblo from Comedores Sociales de Puerto Rico.

Marángeli Mejia-Rabell’s (moderator) practice is focused on community media practices, cultural organizing, intersectionality, accessibility and diversity. As Director of the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival and Co Founder/Partner of AFROTAINO she co-curates, designs and executes arts and culture programming, collaborations and multidisciplinary projects. She has served as the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival Director for seven years supporting the groundbreaking work of Latinx filmmakers. Throughout Marángeli’s career, she has centered Latinx creators, stories and culture to bring about positive change and representation. Marángeli also serves as a Leadership Coach with the National Arts Strategies Coaching Collective. She also served as part of the inaugural DOC NYC’s Documentary New Leaders cohort. Marángeli received a 2021 Arts & Business Council for Greater Philadelphia Leadership Award and a 2021 Leeway Foundation’s Transformation Award.


October 25 @ 4:00pm
4:00 pm — 5:00 pm (1h)

Photo: Still from Landfall directed by Cecilia Aldarondo
Trailer Link: https://itvs.org/films/landfall



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NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.