Reviewed by Marc Glassman
The Island President
Jon Shenk, director
Feature length documentary starring: Mohamed Nasheed
As depicted through the sympathetic lens of director Jon Shenk, Mohamed Nasheed is one of the most charismatic figures in world politics. Shenk’s film The Island President covers the liberal, educated and highly articulate Muslim leader as he tries to institutionalize democracy in his native Maldives and save his country from being submerged into the Indian Ocean during this present time of intense global warming.
Shot during Nasheed’s first year in office, in 2009, The Island President shows one man’s commitment against all odds to make a difference to his country. For Nasheed, a difficult battle never seems impossible; he’s a man who endured torture and imprisonment under a totalitarian regime until he was finally freed and allowed to run against a still influential dictator—and win. For him, a fight to save his two thousand island country never seems impossible.
Staging a parliamentary session underwater to illustrate what’s happening in the Maldives as the waters relentlessly cover more land daily, Nasheed decides to go to the heavily hyped Copenhagen Climate Summit. After an unnerving battle to get the established nations to support a resolution to condemn global warming, Nasheed is able to get a watered-down resolution passed. It’s a victory of sorts.
Jon Shenk’s The Island President deservedly won the TIFF 2011 People’s Choice Award for Documentary. It’s a compelling look at the Maldives, a nation trying to survive during a series of ecological crises. The camera loves Nasheed as he fights the good fight to save his country.
Sadly, before The Island President was released, there was a coup d’etat and Nasreen was removed from office. This terrific doc records a time that has already passed but is still well worth seeing.