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“It won’t be any good to have democracy if we don’t have a country.”
Outspoken and charismatic, former President Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, is fighting for the literal survival of an entire nation.
The Maldives, a chain of over 1, 200 islands only about 1.5 meters above sea level, is at the complete mercy of rapidly rising sea levels, which can erode as much as 20 feet of land on any given day. It is contaminating fresh groundwater and making the term “environmental refugees” a reality.
While the content of the documentary was certainly compelling, the filming of the movie and the incredible rare access inside the workings of bureaucracy with heated exchanges between heads of nations providing tension and humor grabs attention. Shot with breathtaking aerial views, the imminent danger of encroaching is visibly evident. There was a collective gasp from the audience I was in when the capital city of the Maldives, Male, was shown on the screen in all of its fragility, looking like a floating city with nothing between it and the vast ocean.
The scoring of the movie captured the beauty and eeriness of the environment, and fans of Radiohead will be very pleased, since the band personally knows the ‘Island President’ and was delighted to have its music prominently featured.
The film highlights Nasheed’s rise to the presidency after twenty years of struggle to instill democracy in a brutally corrupt country, however it is the outcome of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (the Copenhagen summit) that provides the ultimate climax. In an effort to strengthen his case and spread awareness about his nation’s plight, Nasheed is unapologetically blunt, saying things like, “There is no plan B. We all die,” and even at one point holds a cabinet meeting underwater to stir up a media frenzy.
With the future of his country hinging on the 192 countries deadlocked over an agreement on climate change, Nasheed’s struggle gives a human face to a problem so many of us only see as facts and figures.
Catch True/False’s final showing of “The Island President” tomorrow 12:30 p.m. at Missouri Theatre.
By Rena Rong