Today: June 18, 2024

The Island President

The blueprint for any kind of global warming documentary

The blueprint for any kind of global warming documentary is of
course 2006’s An Inconvenient Truth.
However, the subject
of Jon Shenk’s film The Island President, hasn’t got time to sit around creating Powerpoints; not
when he’s got a country to save.

Briefly beginning with the
Maldives’ President Mohamed Nasheed’s rise
to power in 2008, Shenk’s documentary focuses on his first year in
power, culminating in the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit. With his country, built up of over 1000 small
islands and under threat from rising sea levels, he and the Maldives don’t have
time to deliberate, and it’s clear he has little time for those that

In his
first film since 2003’s captivating Lost
Boys of Sudan,
Shenk couldn’t have found a more inspirational and pragmatic lead
figure to base this startling documentary around. Amidst the
lingering shots of beautiful sandy beaches
and picturesque, paradise-like tourist hotspots, he takes
us on a tour of lesser seen parts of the islands to see a country, its culture and people, who face
the threat of extinction unless
radical change is brought about.

Nasheed himself is everything you could wish a leader to be. When he’s not staging clever PR stunts
– underwater cabinet meetings, TV spots shot in the sea – he’s touring the
islands to see how fast erosion is occurring and then making sure
his voice is heard loud and clear amidst the big boys at the UN and Copenhagen
Summit; Obama and Cameron seem passive and apathetic by comparison.

What soon
becomes apparent as Shenk’s camera
follows Nasheed and his crew around
the world to preach the Maldives’ pleading message is a picture of
someone who, while addressing the futility of his situation, refuses to go
down without a fight. ‘This is a challenging situation and we
would like to see people actually do something about it,”
says emerging from under the waves to a sea of press.

despite the positive victories the documentary’s ultimate message is, much like its Radiohead soundtrack, a fairly
downbeat one. As the closing captions
point out, rising CO2 and sea levels mean that this film’s more personal take on An Inconvenient Truth’s stark
warning reaches the same conclusion. Until
the larger, developed economies have their own Nasheed running the show, change is going to be devastatingly too slow
and drastically too late for many.
There’s little chance of that though and Nasheed himself, only this
month, was ousted from power in a military-backed coup d’etat.

A fascinating portrait
of an inspirational leader. The
Island President,
much like 2011’s Inside Job, makes you want to get up and act. If only
David Cameron was this cool.

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