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Movie review: “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” makes for an award-winning drama

“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” was released on Netflix on March 1. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

“The Boy Who Harnessed the Windis based on a true story about a 13-year-old boy, William Kamkwamba, who lives in an impoverished village devastated by a famine in Malawi, Africa.

In the film, William is kicked out of school because his family can no longer afford the cost. He begins sneaking into the library where he learns how to build a windmill in hope of bringing water to his village, and eventually saving them from the drought and political riots taking place against the government.

The story talks about the political upheaval in Africa at the time that William and his family lost their land to the government and their grain to another city. The family is at a point where only one person can eat per day and rain hasn’t fallen in months, preventing the plants from growing. People became desperate, and some died.

The movie has powerful acting throughout, though I thought the director of the film tried too hard to make some moments overly dramatic, and it came off cheap. The movie captivated my attention and took me through a roller coaster of emotions, even though some parts confused me. For example, every time there was a death, dancing spirits arrived, and they were not explained in the film.

A majority of the film is in Chichewa, which is a commonly spoken language in Malawi. Due to this, most scenes in the movie include subtitles, but throughout, different Chichewa words would appear on the screen with their English translation underneath, which made the film an interesting experience. The words correlated with the movie, such as “hunger” and “harvest.”

At the end of the film, it explains what happened to William and his family. William is granted a scholarship to continue his education and eventually graduates from Dartmouth College in America. His windmill went viral and led William to give a TED talk on his story. William continuously sends money and brings more engineering back to his village where his family still lives and his sister is married to a professor with children.  

The film was first shown at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 25 in Park City, Utah, where it received two awards. The official release date was March 1, and it can be streamed on Netflix.

 

Rating 4.5/5

2 comments

  1. The ‘dancing spirits’ that you refer to are in fact nyau dancers, and these are extremely important to Malawian culture in an almost traditionally religious way. They are involved not just in melancholy events(although this film mostly carried that tone) but also in more joyous major facets of the community. An explanation of even that, I feel, would have become a bit too expository.
    Great film.

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