Toronto International Film Festival 2011: ‘The Island President’


Director: Jon Shenk

Cast: President Mohamed Nasheed, Aminath Shauna, Mohamed Aslam, Mark Lynas, Ahmed Naseem, Paul Roberts, Ahmed Shaheed

Country: USA

One of those documentaries designed to make you march out of the theatre and do something to change the world, this inspirational film follows the remarkable story of Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed, longtime freedom fighter and now President of the Maldives, a small archipelago of islands southwest of India. After spending 20 years resisting the brutal regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, spending hellish months and years in solitary confinement in a 3×7 foot corrugated iron cell, Nasheed managed to play an instrumental role in overthrowing the shackles of this dictatorship, spreading democracy and hope to every corner of his benighted country. But, almost as soon as he achieved this goal he was faced with a new, infinitely more powerful adversary: the rising ocean.

The Maldives, among the most beautiful countries in the world, home to tens of thousands of people, and idyllic beach resort playground to the super-rich, is comprised of 2,000 distinct islands, all of which will be underwater before 2100 unless atmospheric carbon levels drop to 350 parts per million. As Nasheed puts it, in a terrifically succinct determination of the stakes in this fight, “It won’t be any good to have a democracy if we don’t have a country.”

Offering pretty amazing backroom access to Nasheed and his cabinet over his first year in office, and following him right up to his famous and indelible plea for aid at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference (at which it is often said he served as the impetus for the final agreement between China, India and the US), this is an entertaining look at an inspirational man, and a terrifying glimpse at the possibility of an earth that might finally reject us. Featuring a sometimes distracting soundtrack comprised of Radiohead’s Kid A-era music.

RATING 8 / 10