Being the final days of Black History Month, I would like to wind it all down with a powerful and positive note. So let’s close it out with a story. Correction, a SUCCESS story, of which we can all be proud. The true story of William Kamkwamba, a 13-year-old Malawian student who is forced to self-educate himself in efforts to develop a means to help save his starving family and village from famine. He is the subject of the book and Netflix original, “The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind”, directed by and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as his father, Trywell Kamkwamba.
A huge congratulations to Chiwetel for recently winning the Best Directing In A Motion Picture award for this movie at the 2020 NAACP Image Awards!
William’s family lives in the village of Wimbe as one of many farming families in the community. He spends much of his free time scavenging for electronic parts in the local junkyard. His tinkering and inventive skills make him an invaluable friend to the local youth and his customers, for whom he repairs radios.
In the early 2000s, villagers soon find themselves in a precarious situation when an extended drought leads to famine, ultimately resulting in civil unrest in a community fighting for survival.
Unable to continue education because of his family’s inability to pay tuition, William is forced to work with his father on the farm, all the while wondering if his theory of engineering a device to counter the affects of drought, will ultimately work.
TBWHTW takes a closer look into politics, traditions and beliefs of the Malawian community, the lives of those who’s livelihood and survival depend on the weather and how it affects the farming process. We see poverty at a different, but realistic level when government assistance is not readily available. We are introduced to the Gule Wamkulu, the magical dancers who perform in tribal ceremonies, primarily when boys make the passage to manhood. We learn about the position of the village chief and the importance of his involvement and leadership. We also get a glimpse of the choices people have to make under such straining circumstances; when their backs are against the wall.
There’s also the beautiful display of family unity and sacrifice, a theme that makes any movie a winner with me, every time.
The individual performances by the cast is nothing short of superb, each bringing their own power to the story, forcing us to appreciate their positions within the family with regards to their plight.
And I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the stand-out performance of Aïssa Maïga as supportive wife and mother, Agnes. If ever there was a strong representation of a selfless, devoted and courageously protective woman, this was it! She delivers with every scene!
Made for and currently available on Netflix, it’s a story that speaks to the strength of a bonded family and the natural ability, intelligence and ingenuity that exists in ALL men, women and children. Not just the formally educated and NOT just citizens of certain continents and economic categories. This is why I love this so much. It speaks to what I teach my children and anyone with an ear: that nothing separates us except where we’re born, when we’re born and to whom.
If you ask me, it’s important that people understand that this tale is a VICTORY for all humanity, demonstrating the resolve of the human spirit. It should educate and it should inspire. And it should remind us to never discount the brilliance of the young mind and its capacity or greatness.