2011, Movies

The Island President (2011, Jon Shenk)

This is an affecting movie about the potential crisis we as a world – and specifically, anyone living close to the ocean without a hill in the way – are likely facing in the next few decades. The filmmakers have found a very charismatic man to follow around and it makes the whole thing a lot more relatable. I suspect if a lot of people saw this movie, they might actually get motivated to do something, simply because they can connect with a real human being.

There are two problems.

The first is that this is borderline hero-worship. I’m not saying for a second that Nasheed is a bad guy, as I have nothing to base this on and for a President he seems somewhat down to earth. (Mind you, that is his¬†privilege given that he governed a country of tens of thousands, not tens of millions.)

The problem is that we are never given an opposing view by the filmmakers, so we don’t know if this struggle to save his country is all-consuming to the detriment of other things. We basically never hear from the opposition. Now, the point of this movie is that we don’t have time to worry about other things, so in that sense this is a minor quibble.

(As an aside, in my book¬†I mention that we could be headed towards “environmental dictatorships” where, when finally confronted by the actual consequences of climate change, democracies opt for dictatorships to “get things done.” So Nasheed is refreshing in that he tries to link democracy with environmentalism, at least we are led to believe that.)

The second issue is the score. The filmmakers seemed to have received the right to use Radiohead’s music – which is not surprising, given Radiohead’s interest in these types of causes – but it seems like they took it as a mandate to smother their movie with it. This is particularly true in the first 3rd, where it feels like the filmmakers were not sure their material was strong enough. (This is particularly bizarre, given Nasheed’s Mandela-like story, which is definitely compelling.) For much of this section it seems the filmmakers used a cue for every new scene. It gets better as the movie progresses, but it is still very distracting and frankly it significantly hurts the film.

That being said, you should still see this movie.


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