Island President opens to packed audiences

The pre-release premiere of the Island President opened last night in Dharubaarge to packed audiences.

Tickets that had originally been sold for Rf 80 (US$5) were selling for Rf 150 (US$10) on the black market yesterday afternoon. Such was the demand that organisers squeezed an extra 50 chairs into the auditorium at the last minute for on-the-door sales.

The film details the lead up to President Mohamed Nasheed’s election and the introduction of multi-party democracy. This is by no means an objective film: former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is treated harshly by the filmmakers and portrayed as thoroughly creepy, as in one scene where he stares unblinking at the camera while soldiers goose step past and a tinny patriotic song plays in the background.

Neither is it propaganda – rare archival footage of brutal military crackdowns and photos of the battered body of Evan Naseem lead up to one of the film’s strongest moments: time-lapse footage of the tin shed in which Nasheed was incarcerated in solitary confinement for 18 months.

“You walk in your mind,” he explains. “Even if you can only take 4-5 steps, you walk it over and over again.”

Nasheed’s seriousness on the subjects of democracy and climate change is given contrast as the filmmakers home in on endearing personal touches – the President’s assistant struggling to do up his tie, Nasheed’s request that the Muleaage staff fetch his mother’s spicy fish recipe, his bitter asides expressing frustration with diplomatic bureaucracy, his phone call home to tell his mother he had secured a deal in Copenhagen, and photos from the days he sported an afro.

The film portrays him as a very human and accessible leader, qualities which are sure to make the film a success among the liberal university student demographic when it is released to cinemas in the US in February.

Foreign audiences with more interest in global climate politics than in the Maldives will find much to take from the film. Nasheed serves as a fascinating behind-the-scenes ticket to the Copenhagen Summit and the diplomatic wrangling of 192 world leaders. In one scene he bullies the President of Grenada into rewriting a document on the climate change ambitions of small island states, in another he disappears behind a palm tree to speak to the Australian Prime Minister over the phone – the filmmakers follow.

Descriptions of The Island President as ‘the West Wing of climate change’ are apt – in one scene, a Chinese diplomat is filmed asking a protocol officer to identify the Maldivian President. “Your government should know this,” she snaps.

The impact of the film locally will be hard to predict. Whatever the politics of the viewer, there is a great deal for Maldivians to be proud about in The Island President. In one scene, Nasheed and Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam argue bitterly about whether to compromise on 1.5 degrees in order to at least secure an adaptation deal.

“People listen to you. We don’t want to look like we’ve been bought,” Aslam insists. Nasheed’s explosive reaction quickly dispels any doubt that his is a calculated attempt to milk foreign aid – he is clearly convinced the threat is existential, but is forced to come to terms with compromising his global ambitions for the sake of his country.

The first screening last night was predictably brimming with Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters, but the second session was a mixed – and younger – crowd. With 40 percent of the population aged between 15-24 and many disenfranchised by the ‘he said, she said’ nature of Maldivian politics, the film could well have political ramifications in 2013 if it proves popular with this set.

Eleanor Johnstone:

“The Island President” sets a mood of gravity and hope. Using footage and interviews original and historic, television broadcasts, and moments intimate as well as highly public, the film offers a cinematic collage of President Nasheed’s pursuit of democracy and in putting, and keeping, the Maldives on the map.

A combined sense of crisis and action dominates the film, particularly on the environmental issue. But threads of hope are strung throughout, most notably in the Maldivian government’s negotiating style. Regularly confronted with the baby-step methods of many foreign powers, Nasheed’s strident style may unnerve his own delegation but it presents him as a man of action, keen to keep his word.

Everyone knows someone who disdains politics as a sport of chatter and show. Nasheed is one of them. At Copenhagen he regularly vents of the slow-moving discussions and hesitant delegations to his own group of ministers. The Island President might leave Maldivians in fear for their homeland. But with a leader who speaks his mind without reservation, the country has more than many world powers can boast.

Extra showings of The Island President will be held at Athena Cinema on Friday
and Saturday, following unprecedented demand.

Friday 25 November at Athena Cinema: 14:30; 17:30; 20:30; 23:30.

Saturday 26 November at Athena Cinema: 17:30; 20:00.

Tickets can be bought from Athena Cinema between 16:30 – 23:00. Planned screenings for Dharubaarge on Thursday will be moved to Athena Cinema to meet demand. Ticket hotline: 9797356.


18 thoughts on “Island President opens to packed audiences”

  1. "Foreign audiences with more interest in global climate politics than the Maldives will find much to take from the film." JJ, You are such a prick! seriously, what do you take us Maldivians for? Like the owner of Sala Thai once said "these were just fishermen yesterday and now they think they have democracy" people are such a bad example to everyone who genuinely believes in this country and the people of this nation.

  2. I just skimmed through online newspapers Haveeru and Sunfm just to see how they've reviewed the film. Looks like they are either too far behind global issues or they are so envious that they just couldn't even mention it.

    In our famous terms I can only say "dhen lalalaa"

  3. "...former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is treated harshly by the filmmakers and portrayed as thoroughly creepy, as in one scene where he stares unblinking at the camera..." Well said MN.

    Watch this. The creepy former admits to the parliament that him and his govt new about November 3rd.)

  4. "Foreign audiences with more interest in global climate politics than the Maldives will find much to take from the film."

    What the f*** man? JJ, your dragging down your credibility as a journalist along with the reputation of Minivan news... or should I say used to have.

  5. I think enough has been said about Minivan and its purpose.

    Its high time any Maldivian with any national spirit just deserts engagement with this whole enterprise.

    It is not that we cannot digest criticism or that we cannot follow fashionable trends like climate change. Its just that we would like to prioritize our own development and society for a change. Britain can dictate our foreign policy through money politics and placement of puppet regimes but leave our domestic affairs alone.

  6. What's wrong with what JJ said?

    To me what he seems to be saying is that this film is bigger than just the Maldives. Which it is. And isn't that a good thing? That we can bring global attention to a global problem that isnt getting anywhere near the attention it should?

    Why are people so quick create this division between US and Them?

    What do you recommend? That we should burn the Australian flag? Or call for him to be decapitated? WTF?

  7. Oh no no gun-jumper.

    See that's the problem with people like you.

    Your inferiority complex or natural racism (depending on which nationality you are) programs you to see everything through the lens of religious intolerance and barbaric indigenous peoples resisting their benefactors and liberators.

    Not so my friend. There are several of us who clearly understands the issues at stake here. Nothing personal to JJ or whoever that writer is (I do not know him or care to) but the statements made in this article is the problem.

    We are having our sovereignty and identity systematically torn from us. However faulty our society is, it is our own and if we allow ourselves to be led by the nose in everything we do then one fine day we will wake up with yokes around our necks. Sorry for seeming like a doomsday conspiracist but take it from someone who has hung around foreign policy circles, we are headed in the wrong direction.

    We are burning ourselves into the ground with ever-increasing debt. A period of debt-repayment faces us and the current government is not prepared to sacrifice their chances at re-election to reduce the vehicle of our doom - uncoordinated development projects as well as the practice of paying hefty rents and handouts as political favors.

    Qayyoom did this during the final days of his government and now Nasheed has accelerated everything beyond imagining. Taxation serves no purpose except filling budget shortfalls and hardly so. Government is ever increasing in size and development mechanisms are dreamed up overnight. Now do you see our point? This is not about America, flag-burning, religious intolerance, British neo-colonialism or any other external force bearing pressure on us. This is about taking the reins once more.

    As Edward Norton requested, the US can have Nasheed for all we care. We seriously need to rethink and recoup our chances at survival as a sovereign people.

  8. Every time I read these comments I see so many solution for our countries problems are being contributed by these writers, one begins to wonder why this lot are not in the driving seat.

  9. Shahinda and Tsk Tsk - you are zenophobic ignoramuses. Who gives a s--t about these poxy islands inhabited by boneheads and extremists strewn in the great indian ocean?

  10. @tsk @tsk you sound very much like a Bangladeshi, who desperately wants to be a britain?

  11. oh, how sentimental. JJ was very right compare us with the much evolved and enlightened west. We ARE and will always be fisherman, out of water!!

  12. I thought the maldivian audience would find the film funnier than a foreign audience given the divehi jokes dont have the same affect in translation. It would be wise if minivan news asked a maldivian to review the film

  13. DRP and PPM look like bitter small minded bullies that they are. You should have thought about that before you treated fellow human beings so diabolically !! Just listen to tsk tsk!! Boo hoo....


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