Chiwetel Ejiofor is the kind of actor who makes your ears prick up when you hear he’s in a movie. Whether it was as Okwe in ‘Dirty Pretty Things’ or his Oscar-nominated performance as Solomon Northup in ‘12 Years A Slave’, Ejiofor’s performances are nothing less than captivating. I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do as Scar in Disney’s forthcoming live-action ‘Lion King’.
But that’s in front of the camera. What is Ejiofor like as a director and writer? As a storyteller, he shows he is capable of crafting an emotionally rich narrative and competent, if not inspired, direction. But perhaps his greatest talent lies in his choice of cast, who elevate the material. Based on the memoir by William Kamkwamba, Ejiofor tells the inspirational story of a curious-minded teen living in Malawi who saves his village from starvation by building a wind turbine hooked up to a peddle-bike dynamo.
He expands on Kamkwamba’s story, building a rich family drama. Trywell (played by Ejiofor himself) lives with his wife Agnes (a sensational Aïssa Maïga). They are liberal-minded parents who want their two children, Annie (Lily Banda) and William (Maxwell Simba), to have an education. But they rely financially on the success of their farm in Kasungu. When the crops fail, developers sweep in to buy up land and corrupt politicians show their true colours. Trywell becomes consumed with despair at the idea he has failed as a father and farmer. However, his ever-resourceful son William finds hope in a copy of a school book – ‘Using Energy’.
This is a simple, but well-told story about the tensions between fathers and sons; the lioness-like love of a mother for her children; and the delicate balance between tradition and progress. Ejiofor’s film delivers a much-needed boost of hope in a tale about defying the odds. When William finally harnesses the wind you won’t be able to help having a big grin on your face.