By Sam Banda Jnr:
Arriving at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe for the first time, William Kamkwamba’s parents were over the moon as they were ushered to the red carpet for a photograph with their son.
They have never been to BICC, a place which since its establishment has hosted several high profile events.
“We owe it to our son. What he has done is great and that is why his story has been put on a film. His story has been known not only here in Malawi but the whole world,” William’s father Trywell said.
William’s mother said with a little smile that stepping her foot at BICC is something that she never imagined.
“We have been hearing about this place for some time but, today, I am happy because I have seen the place and how it looks but I owe this to my son,” she said.Advertisement
To them it was like a dream but nay this was true. They had come to watch a Chiwetel Ejiofor film The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – a book which was authored by their son and Bryan Mealer. and adapted into a movie by Ejiofor, a British actor of Nigerian origin.
United States of America (USA) Embassy which organised the screening in partnership with Participant Media accorded them the respect they deserved as parents of the man, whose story was being screened barely two days after the film was premiered globally on Netflix.
Although the story centres on William, his parents are also part of the film with Ejiofor playing Trywell (the father) while Senegalese born French actress Aissa Maiga plays the mother (Agnes Kamkwamba).
And inside the auditorium, they had to be given front seats as parents and even had time to interact with among others diplomats, former official hostess Mama Cecilia Tamanda Kadzamira and academicians.
“I am happy to watch the movie and what used to happen in those days, telling our story,” he said.
He said what their son did in building a wind mill at Wimbe in Kasungu District helped change the face of the district.
“So many things have changed since then, the place is no longer the same. The place has developed and again with the recent shooting of the film so many things have changed,” Kamkwamba’s father said.
With William still on the move and doing motivational talks in different places including schools, his father said a lot of learners in Kasungu District have learned from him and some have gone on to do well in their studies.
“William has laid a foundation where a lot of learners look up to him. It is interesting that today we have learners who visit us simply to learn more about the family but also our son,” he said.
William’s mother said with the film, their story has been told in a different setting.
“Today people are aware of our village Wimbe because of the film and even when the team that was shooting the movie came, people benefited a lot and we hope a lot more things will come out of Wimbe and be an example to many areas in the country,” she said.
She also said that some of the people in the area had no idea of how a film is produced and that now they are aware.
Apart from Ejiofor, who has starred in several movies including 12 Years A Slave, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind being his directorial movie, the other well-known actors who are part of the cast include Maxwell Simba from Kenya, who plays William, Noma Dumezweni who plays Edith Sikelo and British actor and comedian Joseph Marcell best known for his role as Geoffrey Buttler on the NBC Sitcom The French Prince of Bel-Air.
“Some people at Wimbe have gained acting skills and are dreaming of pursuing acting careers so there is been a great change and this film has done a lot,” Trywell said.
Running for 113 minutes, the film digs deeper into different issues happening in the Malawian society and that includes religion, culture, education, agriculture, poverty and politics.
Ejiofor hailed Malawians as well as William and his parents for allowing them to shoot the film.
Although there are some lapses in terms of suspense with some exaggerations, Ejiofor used his art well to tell the original story and not twist it.
In fact William was worried when Ejiofor contacted him for the first time that he wanted to adapt the book into a movie.
“To turn a book into a movie in most cases there is a chance that the story will be twisted but I am happy the way Chiwetel Ejiofor told it. It has actually relieved the moments looking back to the path I have travelled,” he said.
William said a lot has changed since he built the wind mill and that he has explored other ways such as wind power and turning the horizontal wind mill to vertical.
“Now I am on the move empowering people to be innovative and also tell them that sometimes it’s not good always complaining but stand up and find solutions within the problems and that is what I did and that is why I wrote the book,” he said.
The author said he is now interested in renewable energy such as using biogas.
“Malawi has energy challenges but we need to hold hands to find solutions and as I said, there is need to explore renewable energy such as wind power as well as experiment with wave energy. I went to Salima recently where I was trying to explore this. I am interested to see which way will have the most impact,” William said.
He also said Malawians and the African continent have to unite to see how well to use knowledge.
In the film, as a young boy who comes from a family of farmers who live in the nearby village of Wimbe. William also fixes radios for his friends and neighbours and spends his free time looking through the local yard for salvageable electronic components.
Although he is soon barred from attending school due to his parents’ inability to pay his tuition fees, William blackmails his science teacher (who is in a secret relationship with his sister played by Lily Banda into letting him continue attending his class and have access to the school’s library where he learns about electrical engineering and energy production.
By mid 2000s, failing crops due to drought and the resulting famine has devastated William’s village, leading to riots over government rationing and William’s family being robbed of their already meagre grain stores.
People soon begin abandoning the village, and William’s sister abandons her family to stay with his former teacher.
Seeking to save his village from the drought, William devises a plan to build a windmill to power an electric water pump that he had scavenged earlier.
The creation of the wind mill brings light and hope to the village which had turned hopeless.
This is the story which has touched the world and is all over being discussed and for William’s parents, they pray for the best from their son.
Before the film, William was a subject of a documentary William and the Windmill, which won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature at the 2013 South by Southwest film festival in Austin, Texas, USA.
In 2013, Time magazine named Kamkwamba one of the 30 People under 30 Changing The World.
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