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William Kamkwamba at TED2014 at Vancouver, Canada. Photo: Ryan Lash

A Film Based on William Kamkwamba's Remarkable Story Is In the Works

Chiwetel Ejiofor will star, write and direct a film adaptation of the book about the Malawian inventor's life, 'The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.'

Nigerian-British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor is set to make his directorial debut very soon, Shadow and Act reports.

He is currently directing, writing and starring in a film adaptation of the book based on Malawian inventor William Kamkwamba's story, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

The film will follow 13-year-old Kamkwamba (Maxwell Simba) who is dismissed from the school he loves when his family can no longer afford the fees. He sneaks back into his former school's library and figures out a way to build a windmill using bicycle parts belonging to his father Trywell (Ejiofor), which saves his village from famine.

This film will show the emotional journey between father and son and will capture the incredible determination of Kamkwamba's curious mind overcoming every obstacle in his path. Major themes from the film aim to raise awareness around environmental sustainability and the power of education.

"William's story represents what has to be the future in countries like Malawi: developing countries, overflowing with beauty, and with potential which simply needs access to opportunity in order to be fully unleashed," Ejiofor says to Shadow and Act. "William's determination and inventiveness created something that not only meant the end of the "hungry season" for his community, it also catapulted him into a future where all his potential could be realized."

When OkayAfrica caught up with TEDGlobal Conference curator Emeka Okafor leading up to the Arusha edition of the gathering, he emphasized how much Kamkwamba encapsulates Africa's potential.

"I remember at the time saying that if we had more individuals who just got about doing things as opposed to complaining about those who are not doing things, like the way William was able to solve problems, we would be much further along than we are today," Okafor says in an interview with OkayAfrica.

The cast will feature

Lily Banda as Kamkwamba's older sister Annie; Noma Dumezweni (Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) as Edith Sikelo, the librarian who helped bring his story to public attention; Aissa Maiga (Anything for Alice) as William's mother Agnes; Joseph Marcell (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) as Chief Wimbe; and Lemogang Tsipa (Eye in the Sky) as teacher Mike Kachigunda. Potboiler Productions' Andrea Calderwood (The Last King of Scotland) and Gail Egan (A Most Wanted Man) are the producers behind the film. Participant's Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King are executive producers along with BBC Films' Joe Oppenheimer, the BFI's Natascha Wharton and authors Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.
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This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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