The island nation of the Maldives -- an archipelego of 1200 islands situated off the coast of Southern India -- is at risk of drowning if our planet's oceans continue to rise as a result of climate change.
That is an eventuality that Mohamed Nasheed, president of the Maldives and the character referred to in the title of The Island President, is determined to prevent.
Filmmaker Jon Shenk follows Nasheed as he travels to Copenhagen and New York, and other parts of the world, to campaign for changes in official governmental environmental policies worldwide that will decrease carbon emissions, reduce global warming and prevent further melting of the polar ice caps and the consequent rise in sea levels that will, if not stopped, drown his nation.
Nasheed, who clearly knows the value of media exposure, creates awareness about his cause with attention-getting capers such as staging his government's cabinet meetings underwater, with participants wearing wet suits and mouthpieces attached to oxygen tanks. It's quite a dramatic scene to watch, as bubbles rise to the surface of the water as they discuss the nation's pressing issues.
Nasheed also sets policy-makers to thinking when he points out that the Maldives is not alone in its compromised situation. Actually, as he suggests, New York City is also at sea level, as are many other important population centers around the globe.
Nasheed is clever and somewhat charismatic man who struggled long and hard to become the leader of his nation. He was, in fact, jailed, tortured and exiled by his nation's former government, the 30-year dictatorship of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. In 2008, Gayoom was ousted and Nasheed became the new democracy's president as a result to multiparty elections.
Nasheed is a terrific lead character for this documentary that puts human faces -- his, in particular, and those of citizens of the Maldives -- on the issue of global warming. The approach is very different than that of many other environmental documentaries -- An Inconvenient Truth would be a prime example -- that provide the same sort of alarming information and express similarly important and distressing concerns through the presentation of pie charts and spread sheets. Not to diminish the message delivered by An Inconvenient Truth, but The Island President hits home in a different, very effective and engaging way.