'The Island President': Upbeat leader fights for sinking Maldives
A movie review of "The Island President," Jon Shenk's urgent documentary about former President Mohamed Nasheed, whose low-lying country of islands, Maldives, is gradually vanishing due to global warming.
Special to The Seattle Times
'The Island President,' a documentary directed by Jon Shenk. 101 minutes. Rated PG for thematic elements, some violent content and smoking. SIFF Cinema at the Uptown.
Climate-change documentaries are almost always disturbing, but "The Island President" communicates a special urgency.
The title refers to former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, whose country — actually 2,000 islands in the Indian Ocean — is quite literally disappearing as he walks the eroding beaches and discusses the devastation caused by the 2004 tsunami.
That was a turning point, both in awareness of the islands' geographical vulnerability and in its political impact. Maldives' torture- addicted previous president was ousted and a more democratic government was established.
In February of this year, that changed again, when right-wing elements forced Nasheed to resign, making him essentially a man without a country. His boundless optimism is contrasted with his wife's darker view of global warming, which threatens not just the Maldives but such coastal cities as New York.
Directed by veteran filmmaker Jon Shenk ("Lost Boys of Sudan," "The Rape of Europa"), the movie mostly concentrates on Nasheed's ability to reach political consensus when dealing with such heavyweights as China, India and the United States.
Nasheed is simply irresistible, even when he's trying to establish "nonnegotiable" policies concerning the reduction of carbon emissions that already appear to be out of control. The force of his personality carries the movie and creates a sense that change must happen "right now."
Shenk's many shots of the Maldives from the air (the islands sometimes look like gigantic jellyfish) demonstrate the threat to their national identity. Once a tourist destination that celebrated its beach property, the country is now fighting for its existence.
John Hartl: email@example.com