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The Island President


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.


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The Filmmakers

Jon Shenk Director/Director of Photography

Jon Shenk is an award-winning director and cinematographer based in San Francisco, California. Most recently, Shenk directed and photographed THE ISLAND PRESIDENT, which won Best Documentary at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. Shenk was the DP for the Academy Award- winning SMILE PINKI (2009) and won an Emmy for BLAME SOMEBODY ELSE (2007, PBS/EXPOSÉ). Shenk directed and photographed LOST BOYS OF SUDAN, Independent Spirit Award winner in 2004 and he co-directed and photographed DEMOCRACY AFGHAN STYLE (2004).  Early in his career, he directed and photographed THE BEGINNING (1999), a chronicle of George Lucas’s STAR WARS: EPISODE I.

Bonni Cohen Director/Producer

Since co-founding Actual Films in 1998, Bonni Cohen has produced and directed an array of award-winning films, including THE ISLAND PRESIDENT, INSIDE GUANTANAMO, THE RAPE OF EUROPA, and WONDERS ARE MANY among many others. She recently Executive Produced 3.5 MINUTES, which has its premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and will air this Fall on HBO.  She also executive produced ART AND CRAFT, which premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.  Bonni is the co-founder of the Catapult Film Fund.


December 31, 1969

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Festivals & Awards

Toronto International Film Festival 2011

Winner, People’s Choice Award

Telluride Film Festival 2011

Official Selection

Sundance Institute 2012

Winner, Hilton Worldwide Lifestay Sustainability Award 

Sheffield Doc/Fest 2012

Special Mention


Extraordinary access, buoyant and spirited.”

-The New York Times

What a wonder documentary... plays more like a thriller”

-Awards Daily

Essential. As informative as it is stimulating.”

-Time Out New York

Compelling and thought provoking.”

-Los Angeles Times


Activists at the Copenhagen Climate Summit admiringly declared Mohamed Nasheed "our global president." But on February 7th 2012, this first democratically-elected president in Maldives history (and harbinger of the Arab Spring last year) was forced to resign in a coup d'etat orchestrated by security forces loyal to the former dictator. The country now faces a democracy crisis in addition to the looming threat from climate change.

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