Participant Media/BBC Films/British Film Institute/Potboiler Productions/Netflix
Directed and Screenplay by Chiwetel Ejiofor
Produced by Andrea Calderwood/Gail Egan
Based on “The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind” by William Kamkwamba/Brian Mealer
Cinematography by Dick Pope
Edited by Valerio Bonelli
Music by Antonio Pinto
I’ve been a fan of Chiwetel Ejiofor since I saw him in the movies “Serenity” and “Dirty Pretty Things” and for good reason. The man has one of the most emotionally expressive pair of eyes I’ve ever seen in a human head. It’s no wonder this man has become such a well regarded and popular actor. He can communicate exactly what he is thinking and feeling using just his eyes and it’s always captivating to watch him on screen. I simply cannot watch anybody else when he’s doing his thing.
And with THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND he shows that he’s just as capable at writing and directing. Make no mistake…this is no feelgood Friday or Saturday night date movie and I’m glad that Patricia and I watched it during the day as there’s some heavy stuff in this movie to try and digest watching it late at night and then going to bed. Not that there’s scenes of bloody violence. No, it isn’t that kind of movie. But it does have some harrowing scenes where Ejiofor doesn’t hold back on showing what the effects of poverty and hunger can drive poor people to do in order to survive.
William Kamkwamba (Maxwell Simba) lives in the African village of Wimbe, Malawi with his father, the aptly named Trywell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) his mother Agnes (Aissa Maiga) and his sister Annie (Lily Banda) William comes from a long line of farmers but his father has bigger dreams for his son and pays for him to go to the local school. William is something of a genius as he has a small side business repairing radios for his neighbors and scavenging whatever he can from the nearby garbage dump to rebuild and repair electronic devices. He’s an inventive boy, full of curiosity and a love of learning.
Things change quickly when Wimbe is hit by famine. The government refuses to help the village due to Malawi’s newly elected president’s displeasure with the village chief (Joseph Martell). The land is too dry from the lack of rain and William must drop out of school as Trywell must save what little money the family has and can no longer afford to pay the tuition. William is both resilient and resourceful enough to use his knowledge of his teacher’s extracurricular activities to subtly and respectfully blackmail his way into continuing to have access to the school’s library. It’s there that he finds a book; “Using Energy” that changes his life. William figures out that he can build a wind turbine to power a pump he has repaired which will draw water from the depths of the village well and make the land farmable. The main obstacle William has to overcome is one he never expected to; his own father. Trywell is battling against his own feelings of inferiority and helplessness as nothing he does seems to make a difference and all he can do is watch while his own family slowly starves. Blinded by his own stubbornness and baffled to see friends and neighbors he’s known for years turn into ruthless looters he dismisses his son’s ideas.
Told you that it was some heavy stuff, didn’t I? And that’s not even counting the involvement of the local political system infested with power hungry opportunists who care not a fig for the fate of the villagers. Even events on the other side of the world such as the terrorist attack on New York (the movie takes place in 2001) affect this small village and adds to their woes. In the midst of all this, William pursues his goal of building his wind turbine, proving to be in his own quieter way just as stubborn and determined as his father.
There are some who will call THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND predictable and the ending is much too tidy but isn’t that why we enjoy stories such as these so much? Because they reaffirm our faith that no matter how bad things get (and things in this movie do get pretty damn bad pretty damn quick) they will all work out in the end if we stick together and show just a little trust in each other?
I loved the cinematography of this movie as it was filmed on location and even the harsh conditions of the famine on the land is beautiful. I enjoy movies such as this that has a cast of actors I don’t know as it enables me to pay more attention to the story. Not that Chiwetel Ejiofor is unknown to me. Far from it. But he has that gift that few actors in that he knows how to disappear into a character so that it is only that character we see.
THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND is an impressive writing/directing debut for Chiwetel Ejiofor and I highly recommend it. Netflix has been knocking it out of the park lately for the past couple of years with their movies. For those who constantly complain that there’s nothing on Netflix to watch, all I can say is that you must have a different Netflix from the one I subscribe to.
1hr. 53 minutes