BY SAM BANDA JNR:
Innovator, engineer and author William Kamkwamba was the centre of attraction on Sunday during the screening of a Chiwetel Ejiofor film The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind which speaks volumes of Kamkwamba’s life at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe.
The screening organised by United States of America (USA) Embassy in partnership with Participant Media came barely two days after the film premiered globally on Netflix.
The USA Embassy created a red carpet spot where people had a chance to take a photograph with Kamkwamba ahead of the screening that delayed to start.
Former official hostess Mama Cecilia Tamanda Kadzamira, diplomats and artists were some of those who jumped at the opportunity of taking photographs with Kamkwamba.
With some watching the movie after its premiere, a lot of people are still eager to watch the film which according to USA Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer, will also screen in Kamkwamba’s Wimbe Village in Kasungu on March 15 2019.
Kamkwamba received a standing ovation when making opening remarks before the screening and had to get a huge one after the end of a movie that Chiwetel and cast shot in Kasungu District.
The almost two-hour movie stems from a book Kamkwamba authored and Chiwetel did his best not to twist it-with little, in terms of twists and suspense.
It is a film which has a combination of Chichewa and English, with some instances having subtitles.
Chiwetel, who apologised for not making it to the screening in a video, admitted recently that the idea was to tell the story for the global audience.
“I would like to thank the people of Malawi for allowing us into your wonderful country and treating us nicely and it was beautiful shooting in Kasungu. We had over 100 people cast crew including Malawians. I would like to thank William and entire family for the support and generosity throughout the process,” Chiwetel said.
Being his first directorial movie, Chiwetel has shown potential in the way he has told the story which at the end brings in life through Kamkwamba’s windmill.
The story captures issues the Malawian society faces, among them, education, politics, culture and religion.
Kamkwamba, played by Kenya’s Maxwell Simba, was born in a family of relative poverty and relied primarily on farming to survive.
He enjoyed playing with his friends, Gilbert and Geoffrey, using recycled materials.
His father Trywell, played by Chiwetel, had been a rough fighting man who changed after becoming a Christian.
Famine later forced Kamkwamba to drop out of school, and he was not able to return to school because his family was unable to afford tuition fee.
In a desperate attempt to retain his education, Kamkwamba began to frequently visit the village library and it was there that he discovered his true love for electronics and, before that, he had once set up a small business, repairing his fellow villagers’ radios, but his work with the radios had not earned him much money.
After reading a book called Using Energy, Kamkwamba decided to create a makeshift windmill using locally available resources and it was after he had experimented with a small model using a cheap dynamo that he eventually made a functioning windmill that powered some electrical appliances in his family’s house.
Kamkwamba’s parents were also present during the screening as well as actors such as Kelvin Ngoma, Ian Chitsekula and George Misinde.
“William has made us proud. A lot of students in Kasungu have learned from his and are doing well in their studies,” William’s father said.
Kamkwamba said, when he started building his first windmill, he did not imagine that he would be speaking of a movie.
“I wrote this book because I wanted to reach out to as many people as possible to share my story. There are people who are facing different challenges but I hope, through the book and the movie, others will get inspired to do something,” he said.
On the language, Kamkwamba, who also answered questions at the end, said it is hard to learn a language while shooting.
“We need to appreciate that they tried their best,” Kamkwamba said.
But what was his reaction after Chiwetel told him for the first time he was working on a movie based on his book?
“My reaction was that of excitement but also worry on how he was going to go about the story because sometimes things are changed or twisted,” Kamkwamba said.
He said a lot has changed since he worked on the windmill as there are explorations of wind power and moving from horizontal wind mill to vertical and that he still continues to inspire others through talks.
“Now I am also interested in renewable energy. Find ways to help out and experiment, for instance, with wave energy,” he said.
Renowned writer Shadreck Chikoti said, as a writer, he is excited that the film has been adapted from the movie.
“A beautiful story from the life of William, there is a lot of art. At the beginning, there is Gule Wamkulu, the film ends with life with the windmill, the way they depicted life in the village, there is a story about a dog in the movie, how it died and relating that to hunger,” Chikoti said.
For him, the story kept him on the edge in that it is highly packed with culture, politics, education and science.
Palmer said she enjoyed the movie and that she was watching it for the first time after reading the book.
“It’s an inspiring story,” Palmer said.
She also hinted that they are looking at making the book accessible to students in secondary schools.
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