DIR: Jon Shenk • PRO: Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen • ED: Pedro Kos • DOP: Jon Shenk • CAST: Mohamed Nasheed
The political career of Mohamed ‘Anni’ Nasheed, 44, president of the Maldives and pro-democracy and environmental campaigner, has been beautifully wrapped up in a stunning documentary created and directed by Jon Shenk: The Island President.
The Island President starts off in 2008 when the former Amnesty activist was elected president – the first democratically elected president of the Maldives. In accurately balanced shots contrasting wonderful white beaches and moments of great tension, Shenk illustrates how, according to scientific estimates, if carbon emissions continue at the levels they are today, the Maldives will disappear within a decade. Moreover those levels aren’t steady: in fact they’re climbing each year, thanks to industrial nations like India and China that rely heavily on coal.
Mohamed Nasheed appears perfectly comfortable on screen. A camera crew follows him during his mandate as President; providing the viewer with a fine depiction of a fearless politician – but who at the same time can be a funny and sweet man.
The President is most famous for his efforts to combat climate change, winning several environmental awards over the past few years. ‘Asia’s Obama’, as the press often refer to him, has also been recognised for his human rights work. In 2009 he was awarded Sweden’s prestigious Anna Lindh prize for improving rights and freedom in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation.
The documentary gives a great description of Nasheed’s work before and during his mandate and also provides a full account of the happenings in Copenaghen in 2009 during the climate change summit where all the powerful political leaders on this planet tried to reach a deal to secure decent carbon emissions cuts. As we witness from this Shenk project, by the last day many of the conference goals had to be dropped due to a lack of agreement amongst the ‘big lads’. However, during those hectic Copenaghen days and nights, Nasheed’s force and courage to strenously lead towards a ‘green’ way are to be admired.
He nearly emerges as a new ‘Che’ for environmental issues, to the point that he was able to put collegues and other media represantatives in scuba gear for a first ever underwater cabinet. This demonstrates exactly the measure not only of the tenacity and strength of the man, but also his colourful approach to politics.
However, in February Nasheed was forced to resign from his role as Prime Minister. During his term, the president had run into trouble as he tried to stamp out corruption, cronyism and criminality. Powerful businessmen, which include members of Gayoom’s family (Gayoom was the dictator that ruled the country for over 30 years) and the former cabinet, had used their wealth and influence to win seats in parliament and fought hard to block Nasheed’s anti-corruption drive and his enviromental battles.
The international community has welcomed President Nasheed’s efforts to raise awareness over the dangers of climate change, which threaten to submerge his low-lying nation. That same international community must not sit back and watch as the remnants of dictatorship try and sink the Maldives’ fledgling democracy. Therefore all these latest events make this documentary even more important and decisive for the future of this endangered archipelago and in general of our planet.
The Island President is released on 30th March 2012
The Island President is exclusively screening in The Light House cinema and also available to watch on VOLTA.ie