Samuel Goldwyn Films has picked up U.S. rights to “The Island President,” Jon Shenk’s doc about the prexy of the Maldives and his fight to save the nation from rising water levels.

Film bowed earlier this year at Telluride and Toronto (where it won the fest’s aud-fave doc kudo), and will get a gala spotlight screening at Gotham fest Doc NYC Nov. 8.

Goldwyn Films — which acquired theatrical, home entertainment and ancillary rights to the movie — has slated a February 2012 release for the film. Distributor is positioning the movie as an Academy Awards contender, with the pic’s producers already qualifying “Island President” for the race.

Doc by Shenk (“Lost Boys of Sudan”) takes on global warming by focusing on Mohamed Nasheed, the president the Maldives, the nation made up of some 1200 small islands that are so close to sea level that rising water levels threaten to sink the entire nation in a matter of years. Film follows Nasheed’s fight against climate change, including a 2009 trip to the Copenhagen Climate Summit.

Richard Berge and Bonni Cohen produced “Island President,” with Jon Else on board as exec producer. Film is a co-production of AfterImage Public Media and the Independent Television Service in association with Actual Films and Impact Partners.

Distribution pact was negotiated by Peter Goldwyn and Ian Puente of Goldwym Films with Neil Friedman of Menemsha Films. Goldwyn also recently picked up another doc, “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel,” for release next year.