Monday, 2 April 2012

THE ISLAND PRESIDENT review

Charting the efforts of the Maldivian President to alter views on climate change before his islands disappear into the ocean, the moving documentary The Island President is now in cinemas.



After succeeding in bringing democracy to a nation that had been ruled by one man for the last thirty years, Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed found himself in charge of a paradise in danger of extinction. Hoping to raise awareness of the plight of smaller island nations and the threat that rising sea levels has against them, this film charts his progress as he heads to the Copenhagen climate summit to put his case towards the bigger nations.


A successfully enlightening documentary in that it tells a story that most won't know. I had no idea that an idyllic looking place like the Maldives was under such a very imminent threat, let alone its history of political turmoil. Set the task of righting some of the wrongs of his predecessor whilst trying to save his small part of the planet, Nasheed is part Barack Obama and part Al Gore. This film charts the impracticalities of being such a 'minor' leader trying to save the planet in a political forum against the big boys, and the unorthodox methods Nasheed has to use to gain attention. When diplomacy is failing him he does what no ordinary politician would consider doing; donning a wet suit and holding the first underwater cabinet meeting to highlight his cause.

In charge of an Islamic nation with its own democracy, he's a politician more concerned with making change than looking proper. If the sea level rises by just 2 metres, the islands he governs are gone. The tsunami that hit their beaches was the warning and now his islands are like one big egg timer, except their sands will disappear straight into the ocean.



Building up to his showdown with the major nations in Copenhagen, it's a real underdog story with a central character who's easily likable. Despite some rather lengthy and potentially tedious detailing that detracts from its capabilities as a source of entertainment, this documentary has the very real potential to change the lives of the Maldivian people. The film could have benefitted from showing off more of the Maldives natural beauty just to hammer home the point, but this is a battle fought across grand boardrooms, somewhere that Nasheed undoubtably shines.


The aerial shots show the remote islands for what they really are; tiny, vulnerable places dwarfed by the ocean that surrounds them. There really isn't a better metaphor for what Nasheed has to face when all eyes are on him in Copenhagen. Although this film is unpolished at times and in need of a heftier pace, it paints an honest portrayal of a man wanting to fight for his people.


The political landscape of the Maldives has only become more complicated since this film was made, and that's a story nowhere near to a conclusion yet. Separate to Nasheed's goals to save the Maldives, it's easy to be moved by the man's gallantry; something even more frustrating when you read what he's been subjected to since.


Verdict

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