The release of the original Netflix documentary "After Maria" prompted a wave of emotions and backlash — to the point that thousands have signed various online petitions asking for the short film to be removed from the streaming platform’s library after accusations it is disrespectful and not in tune with the plight of those still in Puerto Rico suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
The documentary released last week showcases the stories of three Puerto Rican women who were forced to leave the island after Hurricane Maria and the challenges they faced in New York, including homelessness after their temporary FEMA housing expired.
On Sept. 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island of Puerto Rico, wreaking havoc across its terrain to such great proportions that very few storms throughout United States history provoked the level of widespread destruction and disorganization experienced during and in the aftermath of the hurricane.
The documentary not only resurfaced memories of the devastation left by Hurricane Maria’s passing but incited at least three different online petitions to emerge asking Netflix for the removal of the short film.
According to the Change.org petition, Eliminar Documental After Maria en Netflix. Delete After Maria Documentary from Netflix, which had more than 20,100 signatures by Tuesday afternoon, the short film has “nothing to do with the suffering of millions of Puerto Ricans.” It goes on to say in Spanish that the title should be changed to "After Fema."
“Remove 'After Maria' from Netflix streaming platform,” another petition on Change.org, says the documentary “disrespects the honor, values and working spirit of our commonwealth by ridiculizing [sic] us as poor, inconsiderate and maintained by (FEMA). People from Puerto Rico did not like the documentary and are criticizing it in all social media, news, and papers.”
At the time of publication, that petition had more than 23,500 signatures.
Meanwhile, a Care2.com petition, “Immediate Removal of the Netflix documentary After Maria!!” argues “there is little to no mention of the people who actually suffered through this hurricane who stayed on the island who actually suffered without water electricity food medical help and so on. It shows people who do little to help their situation therefore diminishing the struggles of the people of the island itself.”
“After Maria” director Nadia Hallgren and producer Lauren Cioffi did not immediately respond to NBC 4 New York's email request for comment.
However, in a previous interview with CUNY, her alma mater, Hallgren said: "We ended up deciding to focus on these women in our film because they were the most open to opening up their lives to us, telling their stories. We also loved the story of these three moms who were brave. Two of the women’s husbands came with them, but it was the women who led the charge. They were the ones who came to New York for the sake of their children and their families. So many of us know this story from our own mothers.”
NBC 4 New York also reached out to Netflix. A spokesperson said they had “no comment and the filmmaker will not be doing interviews at this time.”
The controversy surrounding the documentary comes amid news that a second conservative Republican in as many House sessions blocked a long-overdue $19 billion disaster aid bill Tuesday. The bill contains money for Puerto Rico.