Originally posted on Documentary.org.
This year, the esteemed Pare Lorentz Award will go to The Island President, directed by John Shenk. Each year, the International Documentary Association gives this award to a film that demonstrates concern for the appropriate use of the natural environment, justice for all, and the illumination of pressing social problems. Previous winners of the Pare Lorentz Awards include The Last Mountain, Wasteland, and An Inconvenient Truth.
IDA’s Pare Lorentz Award recipient The Island President, directed by Jon Shenk, is the story of President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives. Nasheed brings democracy to the Maldives after thirty years of despotic rule, but faces an even greater challenge: rising sea levels threatening to 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. 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. The Island President is produced by Bonni Cohen and Richard Berge, and Executive Produced by Jon Else.
Jon Shenk is a documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, and founder of Actual Films who has spent his career telling socially-relevant stories with a human touch. He was the Director of Photography for the Academy Award-winning Smile Pinki (2009). He was awarded an Emmy for Blame Somebody Else (2007), a feature story about human trafficking which he wrote, produced, and photographed for PBS.
Shenk directed and photographed the Emmy-nominated Lost Boys of Sudan (2004), a feature documentary that follows two young refugees of Sudan’s civil war through their first year in America. Shenk has produced and photographed dozens of documentaries for PBS, the BBC, A&E, Bravo, CBS, NBC, and National Geographic. He has been nominated twice for Emmys for his cinematography.
The Award’s namesake, American filmmaker Pare Lorentz, was known for his non-fiction films about the New Deal. Lorentz is rightfully celebrated for making a distinct contribution to more than just American film history. Arguably the most influential filmmaker of the Great Depression, Pare Lorentz made films that set out to document the American experince in the Dust Bowl and the great American Plains. His sensitivity to Americans’ impact on the environment is precisely why he is remembered today.