The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind - 2019
Director(s): Chiwetel Ejiofor
Writer(s): Chiwetel Ejiofor (screenplay) / William Kamkwamba (book) and Bryan Mealer (book)
Cinematography by: Dick Pope
Editor(s): Valerio Bonelli
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Maxwell Simba, Aïssa Maïga and Lily Banda
Netflix has been in the news recently due to Steven Spielberg proposed rules to bar them from the Academy Awards. It seems that mister Spielberg feels that you are not a film if you did not make it to the big screen. Even though not every movie can, economically, have a full theatrical run, and Netflix has been an incredible vehicle to expand the reach of independent films that would've fallen by the wayside. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a prime example of a small movie with a compelling story that deserves the reach the streaming giant provides. Let's talk about it.
The story is based on the real-life events that took place in a remote village in Northern Malawi. It follows William Kamkwamba (Simba), a young boy of fourteen. William is known in the village for his smarts and inclination for technology. His father Trywell (Ejiofor), a farmer, wants to cultivate his son's brilliance and wants him to go to school instead of being in the fields like him. However, the village is hit with a drought that pushes them to the verge of starvation due to the lack of water and food. William comes up with the idea, against the wishes of his father, to invent a windmill to power a water pump so that the village could have more than one harvest a year.
Chiwetel Ejiofor wrote the screenplay adapting it from William's autobiographical book faithfully bringing to life the ups and downs of his childhood. The magic of his film is how effortlessly it engrosses the audience in the day to day life of the family. You instantly become invested in William's life, that by the time the family falls in rough times due to the drought, you cannot help but feel just as destroyed and hopeless with the situation. Making the ending overwhelm you with emotions of joy for the entire village, but mainly for William. This also marks the directorial debut of Ejiofor and he knocked it out of the park. I love how he chose a story from his native country to be his first, as you can see the connection he had with the material, especially having the actors speak in the native tongue of Malawi.
The acting across the board is fantastic, with Chiwetel Ejiofor given another Oscar-worthy performance. His struggles to keep his family fed and alive, while trying to be still the loving father they need was heartbreaking. It is impressive that this is Maxwell Simba debut as he held his own and rose to the challenge the script gave him. Aïssa Maïga as William's mother steals the movie. The scene where she tells her daughter (Lily Banda) that she would rather cut her arm off than to let her starve for one second cut me to my core.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a gut-wrenching film that earns its emotional ending. Ejiofor brilliant script avoids the trap falls many movies based on real events tend to sink in. The core family elevates the script as everyone is bringing the full scope of emotions to the table, placing the audience in this dire situation. I hope this is not a one and done deal as he is a promising writer/director, with a unique point of view. Watch it now.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is Why I Love Movies.
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