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Documentary Community Rallies Around Arrested “Island President”

Documentary Community Rallies Around Arrested "Island President"

Plenty of general news outlets have reported on the recent arrest of former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed, the star of his own documentary “The Island President.” But the staid reports of Nasheed’s arrest, victimization and unjust treatment by the ruling powers of that island nation don’t fully capture the harrowing ordeal of who Nasheed is (a hero for climate change activists), nor what he has and continues to endure. (One of the film’s most affecting moments is hearing how Nasheed previously survived imprisonment and torture, but has remained tirelessly committed to his causes.)

For those members of the film community who got to know Nasheed through the film, and its distribution, his brutal arrest has gone down hard. Twitter and Facebook calls for his freedom first went out during the din of the Academy Awards show on Sunday; emails are beginning to circulate, petitions are being set up (sign this petition to Free Nasheed) and a Twitter hashtag (#FreeNasheedNow) has been hastened. Personally, I interviewed the man in 2011 for The Wall Street Journal and found him as eloquent and charismatic as he appears in the documentary.

Officials from the U.S., United Nations, India and Canada have condemned the arrest. But as “The Island President” showed so effectively and amusingly, it’s hard to get noticed when you’re a small and slowly disappearing island nation of some 350,000 people. But what made Nasheed such a great film character and a great individual is that he managed to make waves that went beyond his country’s borders.

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