The directorial debut from Doctor Strange star Chiwetel Ejiofor, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a stellar example of great British talent going back to his ancestral roots to explore a story that is mostly forgotten in his homeland.
Set in the African nation of Malawi in the early years of the new millennium the film is a retelling of the true story of William Kamkwamba, a teenage schoolboy living during a time when a particularly bad famine is devastating crops and lives in his village of Wimbe. Witnessing first-hand the damage done to the lively hood of his farmer family, young William takes it upon himself to find a solution for the good of all of all Malawi. Along the way the young man must face the challenges of youth will also shouldering the burden of his ambitions against those who don’t support his initiative.
The film looks beautiful and is clearly shot by someone who wishes to portray the natural beauty of Africa alongside the resilience of its people.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is impressive in many ways, first and foremost are the excellent performances of its stars Ejiofor and the highly talented youngster Maxwell Simba as the titular William. Writer/director Ejiofor takes some stylistic risks for what is his directorial debut. For instance, most of the films dialogue is spoken in the native language of Malawi. This is no small feat and one that is commendable, considering authenticity is often cast aside in favour of audience concerns too often in foreign set films.
The film looks beautiful and is clearly shot by someone who wishes to portray the natural beauty of Africa alongside the resilience of its people. Credit here goes to cinematographer Dick Pope. In some ways the film is a testimony to the modern Africa of the 21st century, one that is seldom seen on film, while not failing to show the myriad of problems still facing that part of the world.
There are some big issues however. At times the drama between William and his father comes across as melodramatic, a way to add some drama into what might otherwise have been a fairly straight-forward ‘feel-good’ story. Its uplifting nature and inevitable happy-ending means it’s sometimes struggled to hold its momentum and my attention over its run time, a bit like watching a two-hour long TED talk.
Ejiofor has shown he has the potential to be as impressive behind the camera as he is front of it and I look forward to seeing what he can do on a future project that is free from the narrative constraints of retelling a ‘true story’.
Last modified: 2nd December 2019