04 November 2012

The Island President (2011) by Jon Shenk, ****

Jon Shenk's The Island President tells the story of President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, a man confronting a problem greater than any other world leader has ever faced the literal survival of his country and everyone in it. After bringing democracy to the Maldives after thirty years of despotic rule, Nasheed is now faced with an even greater challenge: as one of the most low-lying countries in the world, a rise of three feet in sea level would submerge the 1200 islands of the Maldives enough to make them uninhabitable.

The Island President captures Nasheed s first year of office, culminating in his trip to the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, where the film provides a rare glimpse of the political horse-trading that goes on at such a top-level global assembly. Nasheed is unusually candid about revealing his strategies leveraging the Maldives underdog position as a tiny country, harnessing the power of media, and overcoming deadlocks through an appeal to unity with other developing nations. When hope fades for a written accord to be signed, Nasheed makes a stirring speech which salvages an agreement. Despite the modest size of his country, Mohamed Nasheed has become one of the leading international voices for urgent action on climate change.

This is a most interesting documentary for two reasons. First of all, it is one of very few films about the Maldives and the problems facing this small island country. The election of president Nasheed in 2008 after the first free elections in the nation's history heralded a new era of democracy, but four years later this is once again in doubt. Nasheed is ousted in February 2012 and new elections are scheduled for 2013.

Second, the film is about Nasheed's passionate campaigning leading up to the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit. He is surrounded by Western (English it seems) advisors from the green movement, who are rather unrealistic in the policies they recommend to him. The young president is rather more pragmatic, reaches a compromise and salvages the summit.

Altogether a good film to understand more about a country usually known only for its beaches.

If you read Italian, may I recommend my own book on the Maldives.

Buy this film here on Amazon:

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