One of the surprise hits to come out of Telluride and Toronto (where it won the People’s Choice Documentary Award) was small political doc “The Island President” (March 28), which takes the drama of climate change to another level. While it seems ridiculous for anyone to question the reality of global warming, for many of us the actual tipping point for the planet still seems abstract, somewhere in the misty future. But for inhabitants of the Indian Ocean archipelago The Maldives, climate change is lapping at their beaches, eating away their shoreline. Turning back the rising sea is a matter of survival.
Documentarian Jon Shenk had the perspicacity to persuade the Maldives’ first democratically-elected president in 30 years, the once-imprisoned Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed, to allow him access during his first year in office to chronicle his fight against climate change, which he took to the Copenhagen Climate Conference, where he made a dramatic speech that turned around the delegates’ voting.
When I interviewed Nasheed during the flip cam interview below, he was still very much in charge of the island country he was trying to save. That is no longer true. Just months later, on February 7, he was thrown out of office at gunpoint during a violent political coup, and now lives in the Maldives under house arrest. He’s hoping to be saved by a new election, but the military is back in charge. (More details here.)
The movie focuses on his battle for climate change. “If we are unable to do something now we will not be around,” Nasheed told me in Toronto, where he saw the film for the first time. “And it’s a fact, it’s very real. It’s very difficult for us to plan as a country when so much uncertainty is looming over us. We have to find a solution. It’s not just us, what happens to the Maldives today will happen to you tomorrow. The winds will be stronger, the waves will be bigger, the summers will be longer.”
The movie landed a prime Awards Gala spot at November’s DOC NYC; Goldwyn launches the film in New York March 28, with more key cities to follow.