Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Island President Review: Paradise Almost Lost

By Ben Macdonald

Directed by Jon Shenk
Earliest Year of Release: 2011

The bright blue waters and golden beaches of the Maldives islands stand in stark contrast to the grim near-future it faces and its history of state torture. The Maldives spent 30 years under the repressive regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Among the government’s political prisoners was Mohamed Nasheed, who, miraculously, travelled from solitary confinement to the presidency. When the Maldives finally achieves democracy, the country begins addressing their most pressing concern. For the Maldives, climate change is not some vague, distant threat but their present reality. In a decade’s time the islands will be underwater and a whole culture and civilization will be wiped out. The film follows Nasheed as he races to get the most powerful nations in the world to save his nation. The political roadblocks of selfishness and short-sightedness he runs up against are fairly infuriating.

The film’s aerial and underwater shots wonderfully capture the beauty of the islands. This is a far cry from the power point presentation of An Inconvenient Truth. The film’s soundtrack is made up mostly of a variety of pre-existing Radiohead songs (as good a way to my heart as any), which may be the perfect choice of band to score a quiet, slowly encroaching apocalypse.
The text at the end of the film informs us Nasheed has been removed from office by a coup d’├ętat. The future looks bleak for the Maldives. Soon it will be too late for them, and us. As the end credits roll, Radiohead’s ‘How to Disappear Completely’ plays us out. Thom Yorke sings hauntingly:
“In a little while
I’ll be gone
The moments already passed
Yeah, yeah, it’s gone”