Fading Maldives Coral Reflects Political, Climate Shift

President Mohamed Nasheed in a scene from ``The Island President.'' The documentary is by Jon Shenk. Photographer: Chiara Goia/Samuel Goldwyn Films via Bloomberg

The aerial shots of the Maldives in “The Island President” could make anybody long to snorkel.

This chain of some 1,200 coral islands in the turquoise waters southwest of India may be even more gorgeous (from the air) once they’re submerged -- which, according to climate scientists, could happen before the end of this century.

Jon Shenk’s documentary “The Island President” follows the nation’s handsome, eloquent hope-offering president, Mohamed Nasheed, through his first year in office. A former political prisoner (solitary confinement, torture), he led a democracy movement that in 2008 unseated the goon who had ruled as a dictator for 30 years.

With the waters rising, there wasn’t long to celebrate.

Nasheed soon became a charismatic gadfly pressing for international action on the crisis. The movie climaxes, nail-bitingly, at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference, where he struggled to pull together an agreement that China, that the U.S. and India would all be willing to sign.

An end title notes that in February, 2012, Nasheed was deposed in a coup by the forces of the former dictator. (More information: http://www.democracymaldives.com/.) Don’t expect to leave humming the scenery.

“The Island President,” a Samuel Goldwyn Films release, opens Wednesday in New York, and in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington and other cities over the next month. Rating: ***

(Craig Seligman is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Craig Seligman at cseligman@mindspring.com

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