The Island President, a film by Jon Shenk

Image courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films


Jon Shenk’s The Island President is the story of President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, a man confronting a problem greater than any other world leader has ever faced—the literal survival of his country and everyone in it. After bringing democracy to the Maldives after thirty years of despotic rule, Nasheed is now faced with an even greater challenge: as one of the most low-lying countries in the world, a rise of three feet in sea level would submerge the 1200 islands of the Maldives enough to make them uninhabitable.

The Island President captures Nasheed’s first year of office, culminating in his 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 as a tiny country, harnessing the power of media, and overcoming deadlocks through an appeal to unity with other developing nations. When hope fades for a written accord to be signed, Nasheed makes a stirring speech which salvages an agreement. Despite the modest size of his country, Mohamed Nasheed has become one of the leading international voices for urgent action on climate change.


This film can be accessed on: Tubi, iTunes, and Amazon Prime.

Themes to Explore


  • Environmental and Political Issues in Maldives
  • Environmental Activism
  • Climate Change
  • Environmental Refugees
  • Tourism and Environment
  • Environmental Justice
  • Environmental Politics

One thought on “The Island President, a film by Jon Shenk

  1. Very inspiring and well-written article. You can look at recently published books and papers on climate change displacement, see: Bogumil Terminski, Environmentally Induced Displacement,
    Jane McAdam, Climate Change, Forced Migration, and International Law, Ofrord University Press, Oxford-New York, 2012, pp. 344.

Leave a Reply