Monday, April 16, 2012

"The Island President" at Filmfest DC: the story of Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed and his leadership on climate change

Tonight, Filmfest DC sponsored a showing at Landmark E-Street (sold out) and panel discussion of Jon Shenk’s film “The Island President”.  The country is Maldives, the lowest lying nation on Earth, south of India, comprising about 2000 islands.  The people resemble those of India in appearance.

Mohamed Nasheed was elected in 2008, at the age of 41, but after the film was made, resigned in early 2012 because of unrest of Islam.  The film documents Nasheed’s drive to protect his nation from climate change, particularly at the December 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference (site) in Copenhagen, and all the other steps that led to it.  (There is a scene showing Nasheed smoking a cigarette. How depressing!  But the movie also shows him conferring mate in a chess game when playing a computer.)

The film covers the geopolitics of the conference, with China’s reluctance, and the moral struggle between consumption habits in the developed world, in developing nations (like China and India), and smaller countries.  There was an agreement, but it was essentially non-binding.

The film shows Maldives as an attractive country, and the capital Male covers its island with modern bit low-rising buildings, including a mosque.  The nation experienced severe damage from the 2004 tsunami.

The Q&A mentioned the critical carbon dioxide levels:  around 292 before the Industrial Revolution, 350  (link) (the highest acceptable stability point) and 392, after which Maldives could not exist.  Much of the developing world (Bangladesh) is near the sea in flood plains.  

There was discussion of the individual “moral” problems.  The time line seems so long that many older people may believe they will not be affected, so this becomes a generational thing. But the effects of climate change are already being felt, as with violent weather now.

The audience had some people that were arrested at the anti-pipeline demonstration last August (see March 18 review of “Dirty Oil”).

The film, produced by IVTS and Actual Fil,s, will be distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films.  The HDCAM photography was sumptuous, but the stereo did not seem to be on.  The official site is here

The film is part of FilmFestDC's "Justice Matters" series. 

Wikipedia attribution link for photo of Male. 

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