Review: The Island President


After viewing this film you’re going to want to immediately book your trip to the sunny Maldive Islands. Why? They’re a gorgeous group of over 1000 little islands in paradise filled with palm trees, colorful flowers, warm water lagoons, and exotic, secluded five-star resorts.

The other reason you’ll want to go there right away is that these precious islands are doomed to disappear in perhaps 10 more years.

It is acknowledged that Maldivians will be the first global-warming refugees. Because their islands are flat with the world’s record for lowest high point (7 feet 10 inches), just a slight rise in global temperatures will submerge these delicate islands. Because their special mix of Indian/Arab island culture is fated for extinction, the Maldivian government has already started buying up property in Sri Lanka and Australia for the presumed necessary relocation.

Does anybody care?

This film is all about Mohamed Nasheed’s efforts to save his people. As president he globetrots the world pleading with fellow island leaders and world powers to support a coalition that mandates a world reduction in CO2 emissions.

Juxtaposed to his entreaties are various shots of eroding Maldivian beaches and a report of compromised water supplies due to the encroaching Indian Sea.

What makes this film especially interesting and appealing is that it is a modern David and Goliath story. It is about how the little guy, Nasheed, battles first an entrenched dictator for democracy in the Maldives and then the whole world for environmental integrity. He is a determined warrior for justice in all its manifestations.

The film’s story begins with Nasheed’s crusade to oust President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, known for 30 years as the corrupt dictator of the Republic of the Maldives. Gayoom was known to have ruled with a ruthless hand. He supported his own family members with governmental favors and punished the opposition with torture, incarceration and death. Nasheed, one of the tortured victims of Gayoom’s aversion to criticism, organized a successful grassroots protest movement.

This is the guy, who through shear drive and passion becomes President in 2008 and campaigns around the world to save his islands.

“The Island President” has glorious air footage of the Maldivian atolls, reefs and lagoons. Underwater sequences of iridescent fish and the first ever underwater cabinet meeting are fun to see.

They are all juxtaposed to the brutality of a despot and the mission of a charismatic island “David” who fights for what he loves.

While the film climaxes at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December of 2009, there is a sad postscript to all of Nasheed’s efforts. Just this month, on Feb. 7, he was forced to resign at gunpoint. It is rumored that Gayoom’s Democratic Party is back in the ring to regain power over this doomed, apparently in more than one way, little island environmental casualty.

The Island President is being shown on Feb. 24
as part of the 35th Annual Portland International Film Festival.

Film Credits

Producers: Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen, and Jon Else
Director and Cinematographer: Jon Shenk
Stars: Mohamed Nasheed
Genre: Documentary
Country: USA
Filming Locations: Maldives, Copenhagen, India, New York City and UK
Language: English
Release Date: 28 March 2012 (NYC), 30 March 2012 (UK), and 6 April in Los Angeles and San Francisco

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