Why Chiwetel Ejiofor Refused To Shoot His Directorial Debut Anywhere Besides Malawi

Just last week, it was announced that Chiwetel Ejiofor's directorial debut, The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind will be screened at this year's Berlin International Film Festival, a few days after it premieres at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.

These screenings at two of the biggest film festivals on the planet show how high the anticipation for the movie, which has been adapted from a best-selling book, is — anticipation that is owed especially to Ejiofor's pursuit of authenticity.

(Photo: Ilze Kitshoff/The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind)

The first-time director was initially encouraged to shoot the film in Kenya or South Africa, the tried-and-tested locations for African movies. However, Ejiofor couldn't imagine the film being shot anywhere else but the country in which William Kamkwamba's story is set: Malawi

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (based on the semi-autographical book of the same name) tells the story of a thirteen-year-old boy in Malawi who invents an unconventional way to save his family and village from famine. The movie stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Maxwell Simba.

When it was first announced that he would be taking on the role of writer, director and co-star, Ejiofor made it very clear that his love for the story stemmed from its nuanced representation of Malawi, as stories from the region are often tainted with poverty and lack.

He expressed his excitement about the film, saying:

"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 first travelled to Malawi in 2011, where he met William Kamkwamba, the writer and protagonist of the semi-autobiographical book. It was upon his return to the UK, after this trip, that Ejiofor began conceptualising the film. 

(Photo: Ilze Kitshoff/The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind)

Although Malawi is lacking in the quality of infrastructure that the elite filmmakers behind this adaptation were used to, Ejiofor insisted on shooting right next door to the house in which Kamkwama grew up. Andrea Calderwood, the film's producer, aligned with Ejiofor's imagination, saying:

"That gave it all an incredible authenticity and atmosphere and texture, which you can’t buy."

The film was shot in just six weeks, wrapping up, rather fortunately, just as Malawi's rainy season begun. Speaking with Variety, Calderwood credited the impressive cast and crew for this efficiency, as she explained: 

"Everyone that signed on to the film felt very committed to it, and felt that we were making something that had significance beyond your average film"

Ejiofor, on the other hand, was also grateful and appreciative of the people of Malawi as they offered their friendship and support:

"As soon as we got there and established that we were going to make this film there, you just felt the wind at your back."

Netflix has already picked this much-anticipated drama up for global distribution, so we absolutely cannot wait until it lands on the streaming site, ready for our viewing pleasure.

(Photo: William Kamkwamba/Amazon)