The Island President Jon Shenk

The Island President Jon Shenk
Back in 2008, Mohamed Nasheed (a noted political activist in the Maldives who was imprisoned over a dozen times for his various actions and published works) managed to defeat long-running president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in the second round of elections, notably bringing democracy to the small island country.

Having co-founded the Maldivian Democratic Party, with middle-class ideals firmly in check, his platform became one of environmental advocacy, chiselling out a global identity by promoting carbon neutrality in his country, lest they eventually sink under the water line with increased global warming.

Jon Shenk's unabashedly hagiographic documentary follows the controversial idealist through his early days (making glib remarks comparing global warming to the Nazi movement) to the Copenhagen (coined as "Hopenhagen," in a misguided bid to ignore thousands of years of history) Climate Change Conference.

Of note are the many well-intentioned and ostensibly "nice" statements made by the fish-out-of-water president during these global debates, which give the impression of underdog sainthood as framed by the political obvious documentarian, Jon Shenk. And while the concept of a man defending his country and sharing his vision of environmental universal harmony seems fantastic on a superficial level, grossly ignoring the inherent complexity of the global lexicon and the very nature of industry, what stands out about this cutesy little doc is what's omitted.

Never do we see Nasheed on the home front dealing with the quotidian realities of dramatic political change. Nor do we ever see him engaging the locals or really any political issue beyond his broad environmental platform. We know now that he was forced out of office after this was filmed, just as we know that the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference was a colossal joke. But Shenk is viewing his subject and his own political agenda through the very rose-coloured glasses that eventually led to Nasheed's failure.

Sure, the world (or documentary subject) is what you make of it, if you completely ignore everything that proves inconvenient or ideologically problematic, but it won't help solve any complex issues. In fact, it's just likely to interfere with practical progress and finding mature common ground. (Kinosmith)