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Independent Lens | The Island President

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. 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, on Monday, April 22 at 10 PM ET on WMHT.

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 http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/island-president, 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.

Watch Monday, April 22, 2013 at 10 PM ET on WMHT

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