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INDEPENDENT LENS: The Island President

Airs Monday, April 22, 2013 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically elected president of the Republic of Maldives.

Jon Shenk’s "The Island President" is the story of Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives, a tropical Shangri-La of breathtakingly beautiful turquoise reefs, beaches, and palm trees. But, despite its idyllic appearance, the country is threatened by an implacable and unrelenting adversary: the rising ocean. Considered the lowest lying country in the world, the Maldives would be rendered virtually uninhabitable by a sea level rise of a mere three meters.

Courtesy of Lincoln Else

Aerial view showing the density of Male', the capital of the Maldives.

Courtesy of Lincoln Else

President Mohamed Nasheed greets residents of an island in the northern Maldives.

Courtesy of Mauroof Khaleel

President Mohamed Nasheed is mobbed by the press following his speech at the 350.org rally, Copenhagen, Denmark. December 14, 2009.

Courtesy of Lincoln Else

President Mohamed Nasheed visits an island in the northern Maldives.

Unless dramatic changes are made by the larger countries of the world, the 1200 islands of the Maldives will disappear under the waves like a modern day Atlantis. Can one courageous leader stand up to the rest of the world and make a difference on climate change? "The Island President" premieres on INDEPENDENT LENS, hosted by Stanley Tucci, in April 2013.

"The Island President" captures the popular and charismatic Nasheed’s first year in office, a time when he influences the direction of international events in a way few leaders have ever done, even in countries many times the size of the Maldives.

Educated in Sri Lanka and England, Nasheed proved to be an unusually shrewd and sophisticated politician who grasped that the only way he could stand up to the catastrophic issues of climate change facing the Maldives would be to take his cause to the world stage.

The film culminates in Nasheed’s trip to the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, where the film provides a rare glimpse of the political horse-trading that goes on at such a top-level global assembly. Nasheed is unusually candid about revealing his strategies—leveraging the Maldives’ underdog position, harnessing the power of media, and overcoming deadlocks through an appeal to unity with other developing nations.

Despite his country’s dire situation, Nasheed remains cool, pragmatic, and flexible, willing to compromise and try again another day. When all hope fades for any kind of written accord to be signed, he makes a stirring speech that salvages an agreement. While Copenhagen is 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.

Following the completion of the film, Mohamed Nasheed resigned the presidency in February 2012, under the threat of violence in a coup d’état perpetrated by security forces loyal to the former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and minority Islamist activists.

To learn more about the film, visit the interactive companion website, which features detailed information about the film, including an interview with the filmmaker and links and resources pertaining to the film’s subject matter. The site also features a Talkback section where viewers can share their ideas and opinions, preview clips of the film, and more.

INDEPENDENT LENS is on Facebook, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter. Follow @MohamedNasheed on Twitter. "The Island President" is on Facebook, and you can follow @theislandpres on Twitter.

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Independent Lens: The Island President Trailer

Above: Watch a documentary that lifts the issue of global warming out of the theoretical and into the personal. President Mohamed Nasheed is trying to prevent 385,000 people from drowning. His nation of 1,200 low-lying islands, the Maldives, is sinking into the Indian Ocean as sea levels rise due to global warming.

Video

Video Excerpt: Independent Lens: The Island President

Above: In this excerpt from the INDEPENDENT LENS documentary, "The Island President," we see then President Mohamed Nasheed visit one of the islands of the Maldives to see the effects of the rising sea level along one of its beaches.

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