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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Subject, Great Access, but Far Too Few Facts., November 23, 2012
This review is from: The Island President (DVD)
For "The Island President", filmmaker Jon Shenk, who both directed and shot the film, and his crew followed President Mohamed "Anni" Nasheed of the Maldive Islands around for a year, as he crossed continents attempting to garner support for carbon emission targets. The Maldives are particularly concerned about climate change, as they are the lowest country in the world, consisting of about 1200 islands in 26 atolls, with an average ground level of 1.5 meters above sea level. Their highest point is only 2.4 meters above sea level. So citizens of the Maldives are concerned that their country will sink if sea levels rise significantly. They will be the first to go.

Shenk begins at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December 2009, where Pres. Nasheed is campaigning for a target of 350 parts per million carbon in the Earth's atmosphere. Then the film backtracks to the Maldives' recent political history, told through interviews. The island saw its first truly democratic election in 2008, when Nasheed, a former political prisoner and democratic activist, was elected president. It spends about 20 minutes explaining the country's regime change from 30 years of rule by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to the democratically elected Nasheed government (which fell in February 2012, after the film was made).

Jon Shenk had near-total access to Pres. Nasheed for the first year of his presidency. He went to policy meetings, into hotel rooms, and observed international politicking behind the scenes. This is the film's strength. We meet the Maldives' Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem, Minister of Environment Mohamed Aslam, Deputy Undersecretary Aminath Shauna, the administration's British advisor on climate change Mark Lynas, and the President's media advisor Paul Roberts, also British. We accompany the President on his first trip to the United States, where he attended a meeting of the Alliance of Small Island States. We even watch him try to convince India to reduce emissions.

The access to the Copenhagen Climate Summit is great. It's worth seeing the film just for that. Shenk and his crew obtained this unprecedented level of access in Copenhagen and at the UN by being part of the Maldivian delegation, a privilege which Pres. Nasheed generously granted them, instead of using press credentials. "The Island President" fails, however, to present much of a case for the Maldives' being in mortal danger or even to explain the facts as Pres. Nasheed or Mark Lynas see them. There are lots of beautiful pictures of the Maldives but almost no explanation of their geography or the relevant issues.

The impact of rising sea levels on the Maldives is, in fact, disputed. If the filmmakers are only going to present one point of view, okay, but they need to present it. What impact is which sea level predicted to have? What are the chances of that occurring? Where have sea levels been in the past? We are just shown some beach erosion. No science. Beach erosion can be caused by a lot of things. Monsoon season is coming earlier to the Maldives due to a change in winds. Changes in winds can cause erosion. The filmmakers seem to want us to panic over the Maldives' future based on some beach erosion, which has nothing to do with the issue. "The Island President" succeeds in giving us a peek at climate politics but fails utterly at providing an understanding of what, exactly, the Maldives fear and why.

The DVD (First Run Features 2012): There is a "Q&A with Jon Shenk" (24 min) in which the director discusses how he got access, what attracted him to the subject, what Copenhagen was like, and takes questions from the audience. "Hilton Worldwide/Sundance Institute Lightstay Sustainability Award Video" ( 3 ½ min) is a video that was presumably shown when this award was presented. In it, Jon Shenk talks about the Maldives, the film, and the award. There are text bios of director Jon Shenk and 2 producers. The film is in English and Maldivian with English subtitles.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 15, 2013, 2:36:24 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 15, 2013, 2:39:02 PM PST
If you need it explained to you what 1-2 meters of sea level rise will do, then I'm afraid the point is beyond you. If you are instead disputing the avalanche of climate science that suggests this sea level rise will occur, then you are entertaining an foolish idea.
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