Film Review: The Island President

A lot of people may know of this documentary by now since it debuted in 2011 at TIFF. However, this was the first time I saw it and was very happy I did. First off, documentaries today aren’t what they used to be. They are definitely from a certain angle and “objectivity” is not really the main goal. So, don’t go into this hoping to get information to use in your high school paper. Go into this to hear a story; a journey of a man who was driven to act. And by acting, he changed his world, even for a little while, and tried to change ours.

If you’ve never heard of it, this is a story of how democracy came to the Maldives. How the new president thought the fight was won when he came into power only to find out that there is no point in leading a country that is disappearing and what he was going to do about it.

Some of the things the film did very well that I can personally confirm is the portrayal of the international negotiations of climate change. The long, long, frustrating hours of negotiations were captured with tired politicians continuing to discuss and discuss. The amount of work that goes into the 2 week meeting that the heads of state have every year is staggering and the film hints at that as ex-President Nasheed must talk with, convince, entreat and meet with so many other countries. And, finally, the scraps of progress that we all must be satisfied with at the end.

The film’s director spoke after the film and he said that while the film by necessity is short (less than 2 hours), he believed it was a true portrayal of ex-President Nasheed. There were no major pieces that had been edited out. So, based on that, the film portrays ex-President Nasheed as a driven, flawed human being who burns with clear vision. Tempering this is his sense of irony and humour. I wish I could quote some of the things he said, but rather than trusting my faulty memory, I will say that he had the ability to grasp the humour, even if it was black, of a situation and sum it up neatly with a bow on top.

I encourage you to see the film (comes out in the US sometime in March) if only to be entertained by the story and a terrific film, but hopefully to move your horizon so that it includes the Maldives.

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