“The Island President” is that rare film, which is as effective an enviro-political documentary as tourism video.
Wandering into the theatre to see the tale of former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, and his fight to save his nation from rising sea levels, I left with a burning desire to spend a week on one of the Maldives’ quickly eroding white sand beaches. Soon, it might be impossible to visit this stunning archipelago in the Indian Ocean; the islands are disappearing due to rapidly rising sea levels, a result of climate change.
Opening on the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference or COP15 “The Island President” follows Nasheed as he tries to convince the world to cut carbon dioxide levels to the scientifically recommended 350 parts per million. The current level of atmospheric CO2 is 392 ppm. Elevated temperature and changing weather patterns around the low-lying Maldives has already caused large amounts of land loss. Well-spoken and charismatic during the conference, Nasheed faced opposition many nations including super powers China and India. Pushing more powerful countries to act the Maldives pledged to become carbon neutral by 2019.
President Nasheed skillfully manipulates the media throughout the film. Ingenious PR campaigns like an underwater conference are well documented. In one of the more humanizing scenes, during the Presidents first trip to the US, he settles into a New York sports bar to watch American football and have a burger. He’s awkward as he tilts his head to look at the burger before taking a bite.
Stunning cinematography throughout the “The Island President” paints the picture of life on the 2,000 islands. The Maldives, a developing nation known for its exclusive luxury resorts, is home to just under half a million residents. The 2004 tsunami wiped out 62% of the countries GDP in less than an hour and completely destroyed six islands.
The film could have benefitted from more stringent editing during the Copenhagen Conference, but the portrait of Nasheed and his homeland is not to be missed.
In February 2012, under threat of violence, Nasheed resigned as President of the Maldives. Mr. Nasheed was the first democratically elected president in the Maldives.