MOVIE: THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND
STARRING: CHIWETEL EJIOFOR; JOSEPH MARCELL; AISSA MAIGA; NOMA DUMEZWENI
DIRECTED BY: CHIWETEL EJIOFOR
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is the directorial debut from Oscar-nominated actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and a film that deserves an audience. Where a movie such as Roma landed on Netflix during award season and had a massive Oscar campaign behind it, the same cannot be said for The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. The challenge is to convince you to spend your time in a small town of Africa called Malawi and learn about the true story of William Kamkwamba. With his village in the middle of a massive drought, on the verge of starvation, he discovered his own way to build a wind turbine that produced water for the villages crops. It's a beautiful family film, with strong performances all around, and an emotional center that will tug at your heart.
It has been said about successful first time directors before, but what impressed me most about Ejiofor's work is how seamless it is. One would think this was the made by a skilled veteran, similar to the way Bradley Cooper shined with A Star is Born, Ejiofor trusts his cast, his crew, and his well crafted script. Adapted from Kamkwamba's autobiography, the dialogue is delivered specifically in the native Malawi language, on location in the African continent. Instead of just making this a story about one young man's courage to learn beyond his means, Ejiofor makes the story about a village of people, desperately in need of an answer to survive. This story is an example of how important one persons education can be for the rest of the world.
The cast as a whole is fantastic, but what sticks out is the work by young Maxwell Simba, his first performance, and hopefully not his last. His role as William is downright heroic. Early on, we see beaming joy from his face when parents Trywell (Ejiofor) and Agnes (Aissa Maiga) provide him with a school uniform, the promise of knowledge, to a boy desperate to learn. Sadly, his time at the school is brief. The village is divided, with some members selling their land to the government for enough money to last them a season or in Trywell's case, they decide to tough it out, find a way to harvest crops in dire conditions. With no rain, means no food. With no food, means no money. No money means William must find other ways to learn.
Another part of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind that I appreciated, was the sheer production of the film. Ejiofor constructs fantastic set-pieces, some that rival the works of David Lean or John Huston. Especially, a central moment at a large government ceremony for President Muluzi, which leads to a violent outbreak when tribe leader Chief Wembe (Joseph Marcell) voices his disapproval of the governments failure to help those that are starving. The survival for the people balances on a corrupt leadership and weather that dries up their lands. The conflict exists in the stubbornness of Trywell to believe in his sons capabilities, his invention of the turbine is a symptom of the oppression, a fear that he must conquer, because his son is a genius.
At times, the pace of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is too languid to love, but this is a narrative that I greatly appreciated. A film such as this is what critics speak about when asking to hear new stories, new voices for cinema. There is a superhero movie every week and will always be. I want more movies about the William Kamkwamba's of the world, a person that achieved greatness, saving lives of a number of people in his village. I want more movies from Chiwetel Ejiofor. He's an amazing talent and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is proof that the skies are not his limit.
Written by: Leo Brady