SFGFF Film Program:
The Island President tells the story of President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, a man confronting a problem greater than any other world leader has ever faced – the literal survival of his country and everyone in it.
After leading a 20-year pro-democracy movement against the brutal regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, surviving repeated imprisonments and torture, Nasheed becomes president at 41, only to encounter a far more implacable adversary than a dictator – the ocean. Considered the lowest lying country in the world, a rise of a mere three meters in sea level would inundate the 1,200 islands of the Maldives, rendering the country practically unlivable. Unless dramatic changes are made by the larger countries of the world, the Maldives, like a modern Atlantis, will disappear under the waves.
Bay Area filmmaker Jon Shenk captures Nasheed’s first year of office, a time when he influences the direction of international events in a way that few leaders have ever done, even in countries many times the size of the Maldives. Nasheed’s story culminates in his trip to the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, where we get a rare insider’s look at the political deal-making that goes on at such a top-level global assembly. Nasheed is unusually candid about revealing his strategies–leveraging the Maldives’ underdog position, harnessing the power of media, and overcoming deadlocks through an appeal to unity with other developing nations. When all hope fades for any kind of written accord to be signed, Nasheed makes a stirring speech which salvages an agreement. While Copenhagen is judged by many as a failure, it marked the first time in history that China, India, and the United States agreed to reduce carbon emissions. Winner of the Audience Award at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. The film features fourteen new songs by Radiohead as well songs from indie band Stars Of The Lid.
Screening: March 1, 2012 at New People Cinema. SF Premiere // Festival Opening Night.
Discussion with: Jon Shenk, director; Bonni Cohen, producer; Richard Berge, producer.