Skip to Content
The Island President cover photo

The Island President 2011

Highly Recommended

Distributed by First Run Features, 630 Ninth Avenue, Suite 1213, New York, NY 10036; 212-243-0600
Producer n/a
Directed by Jon Shenk
DVD, color, 88 min.

General Adult
Activism, Democracy, Ecology, Environmental Ethics, Environmentalism, Geography, Global Issues, Global Warming, Green Movement, Postcolonialism, United Nations

Date Entered: 07/11/2013

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

The Maldives is a small island nation composed of approximately 1200 coral islands. It is a tropical paradise located in the Indian Ocean, about 500 miles from Sri Lanka, and it is sinking. Or, more accurately, as sea levels all over the world continue to rise as a result of global warming, the shorelines of the Maldives are washing away. The lowest country on earth, the Maldives is particularly sensitive to sea level rise. It has been estimated that within the next 50 years, if carbon emissions stay at present rates or continue to increase, the nations’ 400,000 Sunni Muslim population are in danger of becoming the earth’s first environmental refugees.

A former British Protectorate that won its independence in 1965, the Republic of Maldives is also politically fragile. When Mohamed Nasheed was democratically elected as the nation’s third president in 2008, it was after more than 30 years of dictatorship and his own exile and imprisonment. The film by award-winning documentarian Shenk (Lost Boys of Sudan, 2004) is told against Nasheed’s first year in office, as he prepares to attend the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009. In the run-up to the global assembly in Denmark, Nasheed travels the world, tirelessly advocating for and garnering support for lowered carbon emissions by China, India and the U.S. He is determined, pragmatic, eloquent, but ultimately only partially successful in his quest to avert a rapidly approaching apocalypse that will be brought on by environmental trauma.

Bonus materials include an interview with the director, biographies of the key players and a movie trailer. Behind the beautifully photographed and edited film, featuring music by Radiohead and Stars of the Lid, it’s almost possible to hear a clock ticking on impending climate disaster not only for the Maldives but the entire planet.