The LA Times’ John Horn finds interesting parallels in the amendments made to two films chronicling the respective political careers of former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed and Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi.
The world moves at the speed of life. Hollywood, not quite as fast. The discrepancy is usually not an issue, but in the case of two politically minded films coming to theaters this month — the documentary “The Island President” and the feature”The Lady” — the gap between real time and movie time has lent the movies two very different postscripts.
“The Island President” from director Jon Shenk (“Lost Boys of Sudan”) follows Mohamed Nasheed, the president of the Maldives, as he fights to stop or at least slow global warming; if it’s left unchecked, scientists predict, his low-lying island nation will be submerged by the end of the century. The movie played at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals in September, but in February — before “The Island President” could be released in the U.S. theatrically — Nasheed was forced out of office in what he and his supporters called a coup.
Shenk has added a coda to the film addressing the plight of his subject, but he didn’t otherwise edit the documentary following the recent developments. Although Nasheed’s new status has given him a lot more time to promote “The Island President” — he’s chatted in recent days with David Letterman and Jon Stewart — his ouster means that the movie now ends with as much of an ellipsis as an exclamation point.
“It’s hard to separate the film from the man. So it’s inevitable that people will ask the question, ‘Does this make you feel anything different about him? Does it add to the story?'” Shenk said of Nasheed’s removal from office.
“I feel there’s some distraction, instead of having the typical discussion about how the film was made and reviewers liking or not liking it. It feels both distracting and it gives it a sense of immediacy that for certain people might make it feel more exciting.”
Said Meyer Gottlieb, whose Samuel Goldwyn Co. is distributing “The Island President”: “What’s happened to Nasheed makes him far more visible. From a press perspective, he’s a much more interesting figure now.”