Malawian-inspired Hollywood movie, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, was premiered in Lilongwe on Sunday by the United States (US) Embassy in partnership with Participant Media. The movie, directed by American Chiwetel Ejiofor, depicts the true-life story of US-trained Malawian engineer William Kamkwamba who, at the age of 13, invented a wind turbine which saved people in his village in Wimbe, Kasungu. Kamkwamba was present during the local screening which took place at Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) Auditorium. In this interview with our reporter YVONNIE SUNDU (YS), Kamkwamba (WK) sheds more light on his journey.
S: What was your reaction when Chiwetel Ejiofor approached you that he wants to make a movie about your story?
K: I was very excited, but also worried as to how he will portray the story as these are two different mediums [book and movie]. The idea of doing the book was to share my story with the rest of the world. However, with a movie, I knew it will be more and that made me more excited.
S: Before we talk much about the movie, how did the book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind perform in terms of sales?
K: It did very well and has been translated into different languages
across the world. They include Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, French, German, Turkish and Korean.
YS: About the movie, there was an outrage on the Chichewa. What is your reaction?
K: When we were shooting the movie, these people had no knowledge of Chichewa. So, they were learning the language while on the set.
When you are learning a new language, you cannot completely do away with imperfect pronunciations. We had to go ahead with Chichewa because it wouldn’t have made sense that people are in the villages and are speaking English.
YS: Talking about your wind turbine innovation, what plans do you have for Malawi renewable energy?
K: I have a lot. I am doing more studies on some projects, especially along the lakeshore district of Salima. I have spent time analysing the direction of the wind to see where one can mount a windmill which can be used effectively. The idea is to continue with what I started and see how far I can go with my knowledge while helping others.
S: With all the attention the movie has brought you, how does it feel to come back home and see that there is no much replication of what you did, an innovation that changed lives for your village?
K: That’s indeed a challenge and I am working on making sure that the innovation is replicated. I am working on putting up an innovation centre in Kasungu that will allow young people get ideas of having a windmill in their homes, among others. All over Malawi, there are many talented youths, but due to lack of support, they don’t go further with their skills. It will be good to have them work with me at the centre tinkering in, working with machines and designing agricultural-related equipment that can make farming more efficient. n