*FILM OF THE WEEK*
The Island President
Jon Shenk's second feature documentary, after his excellent 2003 film ‘Lost Boys of Sudan,’ explores the complex life of enigmatic Ex-Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed, a political prisoner in his own country for much of his adolescence under the tyrannical former regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a dictator he later ousted through peaceful protest and via a landslide public vote that instituted democratic reform. During the film we follow the excitable and infallibly positive Nasheed during his first term as newly elected president of The Maldives, a glorious collection of islands located in the Indian Ocean, under the very real threat of extinction due to rising sea-levels and global greenhouse gas emissions.
Shenk's documentary establishes the importance of President Nasheed's admirable battle against dictatorship, his long-time concerns for his country's future and his loyal band of advisors, a colourful and varied bunch from across the globe who feature in crisply shot talking heads and frantic hand-cam captured moments of panic and organisation. Nasheed himself copes rather well with the building pressure of a country’s expectations, the upcoming Global Warming summit and the continually dire news filtering through from his various environmental experts, all essentially confirming The Maldives’ desperate prospects. Nasheed comes across as an optimistic eco-warrior (except perhaps for his charmingly self-conscious nicotine habit,) calm, considered and intelligent, willing to put in the effort himself, ultimately resolving to make Maldives the first completely carbon neutral country by 2020, proving that it can done, even without the committed support of America or China.
As optimistic and endearing as this documentary's central subject is, this is not a film that leaves you feeling optimistic yourself, with the final frames abruptly thrusting us from Nasheed's compromised Copenhagen campaign to the fact that he was violently ousted from rule in Feb 2012, by supporters inexplicably loyal to the former despotic regime, potentially leaving the Maldives in a dire situation, with minimal International support and growing environmental and religious problems, the future is bleak for the now exiled Ex-President Nasheed and his environmentally friendly ideals.
Tragic as this is, surely more disturbing is the fact that Mohamed Nasheed's strangled cry for support has gone mostly unnoticed on a global scale, with a pitiful 1001 supporters on Facebook and a miserable 306 on Twitter, a particularly disturbing statistic when compared to the dubious KONY 2012 campaign that has to date amassed 788,855 supporters on Facebook alone.
To support Democracy in Maldives visit www.democracymaldives.com to sign the petition and bring global attention to the recent coup d'etat and the plight of Mohamed Nasheed.
In Short: A brilliantly directed political documentary following the somewhat futile plight of Ex-Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed, possibly the world’s last, great optimist. Stunning, moving, frustrating and disturbingly current, this is one of those hidden, yet utterly unmissable treasures.