Title: The Island President
Director: Jon Senk
Starring: Mohamed Nasheed
Release Date: March 30th (Exclusively at the Lighthouse and available to watch on VOLTA.ie)
The Island President is a documentary film following former leader of the Republic of Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, in his struggle to combat climate change, primarily in the Copenhagen Fifteen meetings of 2009, in order to save his country from being engulfed by the sea. Although the most interesting aspect of the story is the overthrowing of the former president/dictator Gayoom, The Island President is not here to satisfy your sensationalist tastes; it is here to pique your curiosity and raise your awareness as to what goes on behind the closed doors at these bureaucratic conventions.
Stylistically, director Shenk has forgone the gonzo style of journalism that has been popularized by documentarians like Louis Theroux or Michael Moore in recent years, electing instead to remain permanently out of frame. This decision was most likely based on the fact that his awards and accolades are for his cinematography and not his presence in an interview.
Accordingly, the film is visually, and aurally, stunning. Shenk is at home behind the lens, and it shows. The Maldives provide a beautiful contrast between clear blue seas ebbing at paradise-like shores and the more gaudy looking, commercialised islands like Malé. Shenk really hammers home the age of oppression that once ruled the islands with simplistic shots – a shining example being the juxtaposition of a corrugated iron torture shed set against the backdrop of a beautiful seascape. The inclusion of a Radiohead soundtrack, including songs like ‘How to Disappear Completely’ reminds the audience of the fragility of our situation and how important climate change is for our generation.
Everyone loves a good underdog story, even more so when it has its grounding in actuality. However, when you see an underdog story through first-hand footage, you often end up with something spectacular on your hands. Nasheed is charismatic, instantly likeable and strong-willed. He pesters the larger, bullying nations much like a stubborn pup gnaws on the ankle of its master. However, in light of recent events (a coup d’etat by forces still loyal to Gayoom), the resignation of Nasheed makes this film less of a powerful statement of what one man can do, and more a post mortem of a dying, impotent political agreement.
In a Nutshell: Lulls at times, but is ultimately a pensive piece worthy of your time, if only to reignite the awareness Nasheed worked so hard to achieve.