Description from TIFF 2011 catalog by Thom Powers:

President Mohamed Nasheed governs the small territory of the Maldives, but he’s capable of wielding a large influence over anyone who watches The Island President. Unlike most politicians, Nasheed is refreshingly blunt and unafraid to challenge conventional thinking. He spent two decades leading a pro-democracy movement against a cruel dictatorship in his country, suffering imprisonments and torture, until groundswell support got him elected president at age forty-one. Suddenly he found himself facing a new crisis: the possible extinction of his own country. The Maldives is composed of twelve hundred coral islands off the coast of India (of which two hundred are occupied). If ocean levels continue to rise at their current rate, the region will be submerged like a modern Atlantis.

In this Mavericks event, we present the world premiere of The Island President, followed by a live conversation with President Nasheed and director Jon Shenk. The film gains remarkable access to Nasheed’s first year in office as he sets out to influence the world’s superpowers. The story culminates at the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, where we get a rare insider’s look at political deal-making. Though Copenhagen was judged by many as a failure, it marked the first time in history that China, India and the United States agreed to reduce carbon emissions. As we see in the film, Nasheed played a key role in brokering that decision.

The Island President combines stunning cinematography with the haunting music of Radiohead for an unforgettable journey. In most of the world, Nasheed still remains unknown. This film promises to help change that as more people are exposed to his charm and eloquence. Having gone from prison to presidency, he has a powerful will for overcoming hopeless situations. The Maldives, Nasheed says, are “a cross between paradise and paradise,” and he makes us feel deeply invested in their survival. After this encounter, you may come away wishing he was your president.

About the director:
Jon Shenk earned a master’s degree in documentary filmmaking from Stanford University, and has extensive experience as a documentary cinematographer. He has directed the feature documentaries The Lost Boys of Sudan (03) and The Island President (11).