The Boy who Harnessed the Wind is the directorial debut of actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and tells the true story of William Kamkwamba, a Maliwian Malawian student who managed to teach himself how to build a wind-powered turbine to power a water pump for his community.
Kamkwamba, played by Maxwell Simba, is born into a community wracked by poverty which is only made worse by drought, corruption and lack of infrastructure.
After being forced to drop out of school, William manages to sneak into the school library where he discovers a battered copy of Using Energy, an American school textbook. This book teaches him about wind energy and thus the seed of inspiration is planted.
One thing that has always bugged me about these “true life” stories, especially those about children, is how they tend to sugar-coat events to make them seem not as bad as they really were. Thankfully, this movie The Boy avoids this trap and holds back nothing.
The troubles facing Kamkwamba and his village are portrayed frankly and honestly, which not only allows the viewer to properly understand just how dire the situation is, but also why his eventual success with the water pump is so important.
This is helped in no small part by Simba’s fantastic lead performance. He manages to perfectly capture the mix of childhood curiosity and frustration from a life of struggle which forms the emotional core of the film.
Combined with Ejiofor as William’s increasingly desperate and despairing father, and you have a powerful cast of characters to explore.