It is regarded as one of the world’s most stunning holiday destinations, but unless climate change is addressed, the Maldives – a country made up of 2,000 palm-fringed coral islands that barely break the gin-clear surface of the Indian Ocean – will eventually go the way of Atlantis. Mind you, the rising sea level hasn’t been the only challenge facing the country and its former president, Mohamed Nasheed (pictured), who was in power when this doc was shot.
Following politically motivated imprisonment in 1992, Nasheed went into exile, from where he mounted a successful democratic challenge to hardliner Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s long-term dictatorship, and won. He then set about trying to get the rest of the world to wake up to the environmental threat on his doorstep, arguing that the problems facing his country today will be everyone else’s tomorrow.
Jon Shenk’s film moves swiftly from political scene-setting to follow Nasheed’s every move as he prepares to make an impassioned environmental plea at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit. Elsewhere, Shenk employs the sounds of Radiohead to wistful effect as his camera sweeps high over a paradise that genuinely looks like it’s on its last legs. The capital, Malé, for instance is, to all intents and purposes, a concrete conurbation on a sandbank; you really do wonder how long it will last. Unfortunately there’s a rather sad coda to this tale of righteous endeavour: in February this year, Nasheed was ousted in a political coup and his whereabouts are currently unknown. This intriguing film may well serve as a record of his small but significant environmental legacy.