New York Times reviews the Island President

The Island President is “unabashedly pro-Nasheed”, writes Vikas Bajaj for the New York Times.

“It depicts the short, slim 44-year-old with an infectious smile as a champion of democracy and human rights. In spite of the odds against him, he tries to browbeat, beg and shame world powers like the United States, China and India into committing to reductions in greenhouse gases so his people and hundreds of millions like them do not become “climate refugees.”

Much of the movie was shot between Mr Nasheed’s 2008 election and a global climate change summit meeting in Copenhagen in late 2009. The filmmakers had unusually free access to Mr Nasheed and his team, filming him in internal strategy meetings, with his family and in discussions with leaders from other countries and global organizations.

“When people see the film, hopefully the transparency of it will be so apparent,” Director Mr Jon Shenk said. “You can’t help but see Nasheed for what he is.”

Mr. Shenk said that in addition to raising awareness about climate change, he now wants his film to convince the world that Mr. Nasheed was deposed in a coup that was orchestrated by loyalists to the former dictator, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

“That might be the single most important thing that the movie can do,” Mr. Shenk, who co-directed the critically acclaimed documentary “Lost Boys of Sudan” (2003), said in a telephone interview from his office in San Francisco. “It’s now clear that this new government is not democratic, that the people who run the ministries are the same people who were there under the dictator.”

One scene, in which Mr. Nasheed is in his waiting room speaking to a citizen, appears to foreshadow the more recent turmoil in the country. It’s July 2009, three months before Mr. Nasheed would make an important speech in Copenhagen. A tired Mr. Nasheed confesses to the man that he is increasingly powerless to do what he wants because domestic opposition is hardening against him.

In a sense “Island President” is the biggest media event Mr. Nasheed could have hoped for, though the attention he now needs has more to do with his country’s domestic political turmoil then climate change.

The film comes as rival factions are presenting to the rest of the world vastly different narratives of what happened on Feb. 7, when Mr. Nasheed stepped down, and what should happen next.

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