The Island President

The Island President


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Jon Shenk's film is an impressive portrait, which manages to paint not only a picture of Mohamed 'Anni' Nasheed, the president of the Maldives, but also of his country's history and its potentially disastrous future at the hands of climate change.

With the country's 2000 islands resting only around 1.5 metres above sea level, as Nasheed puts it, climate change is "not something in the future, it is something that we are facing now". If convincing the world that global warming is a clear and present danger sounds like a tough ask, it is worth bearing in mind Nasheed's background.

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Born in the Maldives and schooled in England, the young Nasheed returned to his homeland and became increasingly radicalised by the despotic actions of Mamoon Adbul Gayoom, the country's president who ruled with all the finesse of a mafia don. Nasheed co-founded a newspaper that was critical of the Maldives' lack of democracy and, as a result, found himself arrested and tortured. Memories of his time in jail give us an insight into a the man, who, on recalling 18 months solitary confinement in a tiny corrugated iron hut says, "You can still have a schedule for the day, even if you can't move."

Regime change came largely as a result of Nasheed's persistence and the savvy rebel became the smart politician - organised, matter-of-fact and driven. And when it comes to drive, the idea of losing your entire homeland to the Indian Ocean unless global temperatures are kept under control, is a powerful spur, especially with the advent of the 2004 tsunami - wiping out 50 per cent of GDP in an hour - to remind you just how fragile the islands are. Shenk captures Nasheed as this dapper, diminutive and unassuming man wages a political enslaught in an attempt to bring the world's major polluters - American, India and China - to a groundbreaking agreement at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit.

Shenk gets almost unfettered acccess to Nasheed, who is refreshingly honest about the tactics he is employing to get other countries onside - "The Chinese and Indians like cutting ribbons," he says, "but we must give them green ribbon cutting opportunities." His associates and wife Laila Ali are also remarkably candid. As Shenk's picture builds, you begin to root for this little man, facing a global challenge with a lot of nerve, some good 'spin' tactics and dogged persistence. And all the while, as you will him to win his fight, Shenk reminds you that the beautiful waters of the Maldives lap against its shores remorselessly.

Reviewed on: 01 Apr 2012
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The story of President Mohamed Nasheed, of the Maldives, and his attempts to save the country by brokering global agreement on climate change.
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Director: Jon Shenk

Starring: Mohamed Nasheed

Year: 2011

Runtime: 101 minutes

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