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Chiwetel Ejiofor has begun production in Malawi on his as-yet-untitled directorial debut in which he will also star.
The Oscar-nominated British star of stage and screen has adapted William Kamkwamba’s autobiography The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, telling the life-changing story of how the author helped save his village as a 13-year-old by constructing a wind turbine from bits of scrap metal, old bicycle parts and wood.
Participant Media, BBC Films and the BFI announced the news on Thursday.
Potboiler Productions’ Andrea Calderwood (The Last King of Scotland) and Gail Egan (A Most Wanted Man) are producing the film. Participant’s Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King will executive produce with BBC Films’ Joe Oppenheimer, the BFI’s Natascha Wharton and authors Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.
Chiwetel Ejiofor said, “William’s story represents what has to be the future in countries like Malawi: developing countries, overflowing with beauty, and with potential [that] simply needs access to opportunity in order to be fully unleashed. 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.
“I want this to be a film that allows people to see that Malawi, and the world, will be all the better for everything William and those like him are able to contribute when they have the opportunities they urgently need to carve out their own extraordinary destinies.”
Participant Media, BBC Films and the BFI are lead financiers on the project, along with Head Gear, Econet and LipSync. Participant will be handling the sale of North American distribution rights, while Cornerstone Films will oversee international sales and distribution in all other territories. Econet will handle distribution for sub-Saharan Africa.
The film follows 13-year-old Kamkwamba (newcomer Maxwell Simba) who is thrown out of the school he loves when his family can no longer afford the fees. Sneaking back into the school library, he finds a way, using the bones of the bicycle belonging to his father, Trywell (Ejiofor), to build a windmill that saves his village from famine. The emotional journey of a father and his exceptional son at its heart, William’s tale captures the incredible determination of a boy whose inquisitive mind overcame every obstacle in his path. Key themes from the film aim to raise awareness around environmental sustainability and the power of education.
In addition to Ejiofor and Simba, the cast features Lily Banda as William’s older sister, Annie; Noma Dumezweni (Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) as Edith Sikelo, the librarian who helped bring William’s 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.
Ejiofor is represented by CAA and Hirsch Wallerstein. In the U.K. he is represented by Alex Irwin at Markham Frogatt, and Casarotto Ramsay & Associates.
The production leads of the film include Oscar-nominated cinematographer Dick Pope (Mr. Turner), production designer Tule Peak (City of God), costume designer Bia Salgado (City of God) and editor Valerio Bonelli (Philomena).
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