Paula StruckmanCultural Confidential Contributor

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April 11, 2013
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Rise & fall of 'The Island President' in Grand Junction

The subject of the March Community Cinema was "Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines." The featured April cinema could just as well be titled, "Wonder Man! The Real Life Achievements of Mohamed Nasheed, President of the Maldives."The Maldives is a collection of 1,200 islands, 200 of which are habitable, off the sub-Indian continent. A seeming paradise with palm trees, coral reefs and sun-warmed beaches, this tourist haven was governed for 30 years by a dictator, Maumoon Abdul Gayroom, who used intimidation, torture and corruption to ensure his dominance. Mohamed Nasheed, a native of the Maldives and educated in Sri Lanka and Britain, returned home to fight for democracy. In 1990, he published a political magazine, Sangu, citing abuses and government corruption. In 2003, after a teenager was tortured and beaten to death, his mother requested that the body should lie in an open casket for all to view. Nasheed demanded an autopsy, which triggered riots, and the democracy movement began leading to the 2004 Blood Friday riots and then-democratic elections. During his fight for democracy, Nasheed was imprisoned 12 times and tortured twice. In 2008, the opposition coalition, led by Nasheed, defeated Gayroom, and Nasheed was elected president. Top priority for the new president was carbon emissions and their effect on the weather. Monsoons were coming sooner and, despite building sandbag seawalls, the beaches were slowly disappearing. A tsunami struck the islands eroding beaches, up to 100 feet in some places. Ocean water crept into underground water and 52,000 homes were destroyed by high winds or water. The issue of global warming became a bigger challenge than toppling a dictator. Nasheed envisaged that these islands of paradise would become flooded and uninhabitable; his people would be "environmental refugees." The president focused his energy on saving the Maldives and warning the world of the effects of greenhouse gases.Nasheed attended the Copenhagen 2009 Climate Summit meetings, a little fish (more of a fish egg) in a big pond. With opposition from China and India, how did this charismatic leader from a tiny nation get any kind of an accord signed? Watch this uncompromising, dynamic leader in action and listen to his pleas that skeptics "not change the reality of facts."On Earth Day 2010, Mohamed Nasheed was awarded a United Nations' Champions of the Earth Award.Since the production of this documentary, President Nasheed resigned his presidency in February 2012 under the threat of violence by security forces loyal to former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayroom. On March 17, 2013, Nasheed was arrested on the charge that in the last days of his rule, he illegally detained a judge who would not pursue corruption charges against Gayroom. Since the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, carbon emissions have steadily increased. Paradise Lost?What an appropriate documentary commemorating Earth Day, April 22, 2013!

Grand JunctionWednesday, April 17 - 7 p.m. screening, 6:30 p.m. wine and cheese receptionRoom 111, Academic Classroom Building*Colorado Mesa University*This is a new location for the 2012-2013 Community Cinema season. The Academic Classroom Building is located near the intersection of Elm and Cannell avenues with plenty of free parking available after 6.Panelists:• Joe Ramey, meteorologist, NOAA• Kate Graham, field organizer, Conservation Colorado• Virginia Phillips, project manager, Clean Energy/Sustainability, HRL Compliance Solutions, Inc.• Gretchen Reist Henderson, Off the Grid Films, moderatorThis Community Cinema film is sponsored by Chevron, Mesa County Libraries, Talon Wine Brands and KAFM 88.1 Community Radio.

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The Post Independent Updated Apr 11, 2013 04:24PM Published Apr 11, 2013 04:23PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.