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The Island President: The optimistic tale of a sinking nation

3 out of 4 stars


Directed by Jon Shenk (USA)

How Mohamed Nasheed, the president of the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean, can ever crack a smile is amazing. A democracy advocate and political prisoner who was tortured, he says, under the country's previous autocracy, Nasheed took office Vaclav Havel-style, as the embodiment of a promising future, only to face an even more dire task. He must save the Maldives from rising sea levels caused by climate change, or the low-lying islands may completely disappear in our lifetime. It is real – the shoreline is eroding before the Maldivians' eyes. After a thorough recounting of Nasheed's activist past, the documentary switches into far more revealing straight reportage, as it follows the president's meetings with other world leaders and negotiators in an effort to set any kind of commitment to greenhouse-gas reduction at the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference. The film's examination of how these talks work (and fail) is vital information, politically and historically. And throughout, Nasheed rides on optimism. His sinking island paradise of a nation depends on it.

Sept. 10, 6:30 p.m., Lightbox 2

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Guy Dixon is a feature writer for The Globe and Mail. More

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