Everything seems to go wrong in William’s life at once — he has to drop out of school because his family can’t afford the school fees, his family struggles to buy basic necessities like food, and his village in Malawi is facing a famine.
But William has an entrepreneurial spirit and he soon devises a way to build a windmill that rescues the village from disaster.
That’s the simple premise of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, a film based on a true story coming to Netflix on March 1 as part of the streaming platform’s push to develop more African content. The movie is based on the book of the same name and it was adapted into a screenplay by the British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who also stars in and directs it.
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“William’s story represents, what has to be, the future in countries like Malawi: developing countries, overflowing with beauty and harboring enormous potential,” Ejiofor said in a press release. “A global story, such as this, requires a global platform and I’m thrilled to be working with Netflix on bringing William’s extraordinary tale of determination and inventiveness to audiences worldwide.”
The film’s debut comes not long after Netflix announced that it will be producing its first-ever African original series, Queen Sono, a South Africa-based show that will follow a female lead in a House of Cards narrative style, according to Fast Company.
The streaming platform has also expanded its licensed content offerings to appeal to a broader global audience, Fast Company notes. In South Africa alone, Netflix has an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 subscribers.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is highly anticipated in Malawi, which is often overshadowed in global news coverage, according to Quartz Africa.
Although the film takes place in 2001, it highlights many issues facing the country. For example, 18% of school-aged children are still unable to obtain an education, 39% of children are engaged in some form of labor, and 51% of Malawi’s population lives in poverty, according to Save the Children.
The country also faces rampant food insecurity, with 37% of children under the age of 5 experiencing under-nourishment. Regular droughts and floods, meanwhile, continually destabilize the country’s agricultural output.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind acknowledges these challenging circumstances, but offers a ray of hope to viewers.
“I was struck and continue to be struck by just what an extraordinary achievement it was,” Ejiofor told Reuters. “What his story represents is really living in the solution, not living in the problems.”