SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW: WILLIAM AND THE WINDMILL

WILLIAM AND THE WINDMILL is part of the Sydney Film Festival in the INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARIES section and will be screening on SAT June 8 at 10am at The State Theatre and MON June 10 at 4pm at Dendy Opera Quays– tickets can be purchased HERE. Be sure to check out the entire program for the SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL HERE.

So you are a youngster, let’s say about 12 – you are pulled out of school, you live in Malawi and you are below the poverty line. You have no chance in Buckley’s of becoming successful really – you will farm corn, and die young. But no, instead you decide to go to a very limited library in your village and read to learn for yourself, you then find a book, called USING ENERGY, that explains how windmills can generate power. “I know” you think as the little light globe goes off in your head. You will build one and they will come. And this is exactly what happens to William Kamkwamba. At 14yrs old he builds this windmill and provides power to his home village. He uses old bits of bicycles, some thongs to make light switches and scraps to make this successful thing work.

 

William and the Windmill
William and the Windmill

 

And so begins the incredible life of William.

His achievement attracted considerable attention, and he was invited to speak at a TEDGlobal conference. The hit of the show, he was taken under the wing of an American entrepreneur and flown to New York. What followed was a whirlwind of radio and television interviews, book offers, parties, and more. How would a young man from Malawi cope with this full-on experience, so far from family and home? This inspiring story, crafted with much affection, won the Documentary Feature Grand Jury Award at the recent SXSW film festival.

Ever since close to the beginning of the journey Tom Rielly came on board as a benefactor to William and pledged him support for seven years. As a wealthy entrepreneur and founder and chairman of PlanetOut Corporation, the largest online community for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people worldwide he can manage to pursue something unusual. William was the person of the moment and he grabbed it. Not early enough to actually see the windmill being built – in the docco they are actually repairing the windmill and not saying that is what they are doing so you basically believe it is him making it. Let’s call it a good re-enactment.

 

William and the Windmill Movie Poster
William and the Windmill Movie Poster

 

 

It is a beautiful story of a kid coming from nowhere and climbing to the top – and we all enjoy that – however – I found the film a bit too long and originally they just filmed everything with absolutely no idea how on earth they would make this thing into a film and it comes across that way until it becomes a realisation piece of the American Dream without an American. William wants to be a normal person but is swept into this whirlwind of an escalating part of America – if you get fame and success then milk the shit out of it then and there. Everything from a book, world tours, sections in museums about him happens. When his rights are being sold to a film studio for a future it all makes sense. Here he is selling the true story behind the future feature film that will come in a few years time. Will William sell out and become part of the machine we never wanted him to become. He was a simple self educated and successfully self taught intelligent man who is now a student at Dartmouth and supporting a family back in Malawi. The pressure he must be under is incredible. I disliked this imposition of Western Society onto him for the sake of making him the cool guy of now.

 

William and the Windmill
William and the Windmill

 

I wish the film concentrated more on the engineering and creation of this amazing windmill as this was a much preferable tale as opposed to the “William Show” as he paraded around and people want bits of him. Financially this will benefit him but he is a fish out of water, is this what he even wanted? Was it his plan all along?  I really would like to see a “William’s Windmill 10yrs On” to find out where he is – is he an engineer somewhere? At the forefront of windmill power technology, sold out? Doing drugs and broke? Back in Malawi? Was he supported by the culture that grabbed him and held tight or abandoned once the novelty wears off?

It is an interesting film and I am glad I got to see someone of inspiration. Worth 4 out of 5 pops.

 

4 Pops