‘Island President’ wins People’s Choice award at Toronto International Film Festival

“The Island President” was awarded the Cadillac People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), one of the world’s five most prestigious films festivals.

The award was delivered in a uniquely democratic fashion, voted not by critics but by festival audience members who attended the screening. The film was one of 25 submissions in the documentary category.

Director Jon Shenk has previously won awards for his documentary films, notably “Lost Boys of Sudan” and “Smile Pinki”; the latter received an Oscar in 2009.

A government official who met Shenk during his time in the Maldives in 2009 said the government knew he was a successful director, and hoped for a positive response.

The official noted that the Maldives is known internationally for tourism and climate change, but hopes that this award will bring more awareness to areas such as North America.

State Minister for Tourism Mohamed Thoyyib called the documentary a “big achievement for the Maldives”, promoting the destination to audiences in North America who were previously unaware of the country’s “pristine, clear waters, white beaches, and beautiful fish.”

Thoyyib added that in spite of its title the documentary was not about President Mohamed Nasheed but rather about the issues facing the Maldivian people. The film raised awareness of global warming, portrayed and promoted “the unique ” Maldivian culture and language, and illustrated government transparency, said Thoyyib.

“No scene was created or scripted, some reviewers even noted that the film’s most unique aspect was that it shot real events on a level that had never before been achieved in the Maldives, or within other governments,” Thoyyib said.

Thoyyib noted that the Maldivian government had benefited a great deal from the film, but had not spent money on its production.

“There is a lot to be achieved directly and indirectly when something positive happens,” he said, adding that tourism revenue was likely to increase. “But this doesn’t solve the issue. The President will keep on raising his voice on global warming.”

Funding for the documentary was provided by the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, ITVS, Impact Partners, Sundance Documentary Fund, and Atlantic Philanthropies.

Minister of Tourism Dr Mariyam Zulfa said that the President had gained the attention and support of the international community before the film was produced. “The under water cabinet meeting that the President hosted in 2009 generated a lot of interest in the Maldives as an eco-destination,” she said.

Zulfa expects the film to have a positive impact on both tourism and eco-awareness. “Generating interest in the Maldives is always a good thing. We are adopting green standards and reducing waste, and are always open to new ideas from the international community,” she said.

The documentary was also screened at the exclusive Telluride Film Festival in Colorado earlier this month. Hollywood Reporter named “The Island President” one of the festival’s “Top 12 films to know”.

In the coming months, “The Island President” will be soliciting distributors for viewing in cinemas and on public television. The film already has a contract with the US’ Public Broadcasting Service, which had helped fund the project, and will be aired on US television next year.

A screening of the documentary is scheduled for the Maldives later this year.


20 thoughts on “‘Island President’ wins People’s Choice award at Toronto International Film Festival”

  1. Well, the way I see it. Maldives has only one real natural resource with which it can generate an income for development. That is tourism. So basically any president who acts to improve tourism in Maldives is a president who actually cares about the country's well being. I personally dont know Anni, but seems like hes a really smart guy.

  2. Mr. President, well this movie making business is good publicity for Maldives, but there are more important things like housing, jobs and regulating expatriate workers, which so far you are unable to deliver.
    Now Male’ is "VERY DIRTY" are you unaware of, you have mentioned may a time that you know the minute that is happening in country.


  4. Mr President, congratulations and well done! You are certainly a global president! we are proud of you!

  5. To save the Maldives u must start the work away from home just like the way u had worked to save the country from a dictator. Thank you, CHAMPION OF THE EARTH!

  6. The blue-eyed boy of the Maldives! Thanks Mr president for your work and congrats! The country is proud of u!

  7. Mr hassan ahmed, u please first try to learn how to string a sentence together in english...Perhaps your language is the barrier that u speak like a frog in a well..

  8. Mr President, thank u and congrats on taking the Maldives to international heights. YOU ARE A HERO!

  9. go mr president, we are proud of you. You are a Hero keep going, do not look for the barking dogs.

  10. Brilliant positive PR for the Maldives. Perfect branding and global exposure. Well done to all involved. Excellent for business.

    Can you imagine a true documentar about Gayoom!!!! That would be a disaster for the country.

  11. why are maldivian presidents so guyllibe and hungry for global fame? first it was "a man for all islands" and now "island president"......cringe

  12. @Jina on Mon, I’ am not writing an English essay for your information.
    Perhaps, bloody hell you are able to understand what I meant. That means I scored a point whether you like it or not!

  13. The movie certainly has put Maldives on the map for a lot of Americans and Canadians. Any publicity is good for Maldives and if we can sort out most of our problems then Anni would have done his job.
    Lets not forgot that to solve the problems of 30 years of misrule is not an easy task and it is not even 4 years since he has been President. To make matters worse we have a corrupt Judiciary and a Majlis consisting of idiots, imbeciles and a few well meaning MPs.

  14. I think this is great. But I do wish we had more awareness about environmental issues. I have a feeling this movie portrays Maldivians' green credentials in a better light than it really is.

  15. I heard President also got the "best villain award" for his part in his film. What a clown...

  16. This is no big difference from "A Man for All Islands".

    Even the title differs little. The West and their whitewashing attempts always bore the average Maldivian. Therefore, one cannot help but conclude that the target audience is not local.

    If indeed this movie does invite investment, increase jobs and entice donor agencies, then those effects should be celebrated. However, if the MDP hopes the movie and the Western-sponsored award would influence the vote then I think Fuwad and his "tamper-proof" electronic voting system is the better bet.


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