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William and the Windmill (2013)

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With only a library book as his guide, 14-year-old William Kamkwamba sets about building a wind turbine in his Malawian village.

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4 wins. See more awards »
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William Kamkwamba, a young Malawian, builds a power-generating windmill from junk parts to rescue his family from famine, transforming his life and catapulting him on to the the world stage. His fame and success lead him to new opportunities and complex choices about his future, distancing him from the life he once knew. Written by Anonymous

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10 March 2013 (USA)  »

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Best Documentary at the 2013 Flyway Film Festival in Stockholm, Wisconsin. See more »

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The Remarkable Story about how a Poor African Boy Builds a Windmill, Spreads his Wings and Flies
13 March 2013 | by (Austin, TX, United States) – See all my reviews

William and the Windmill presents the story of how William Kamkwamba who was born in a poor village in Africa and used an old textbook to build a windmill to produce electricity for his village. The film was well- received during its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival where it won the grand jury prize for a Documentary. The film takes us on William's remarkable journey from his small village in Malawi to major cities around the world where he sees a world he could have only dreamed of before. The cultural and economic distance that he able to travel is palpable – especially when he returns to visit his family, friends and neighbors. The windmill and the assistance of several generous sponsors – particularly his mentor Tom Rielly - allow him to gain access to a modern education. William is able to attend a boarding school in South Africa and then matriculate to Dartmouth University. He also writes a book about his experiences and goes on tour. The film allows us to witness his remarkable journey and see how is able to grow and adapt to his new environment. He seems to adapt reasonably well to the accouterments and technologies of the developed world. He is also able to help his village by building them a new modern school. The film is basically a feel-good story of William's journey and his success. The story is certainly well-told and filmed. There is little argument that William's journey is a positive one for him that provides him with new undreamed of opportunities that are beneficial to both him and his village. At the same there an oddly troubling colonial undercurrent that seems embedded in William's narrative. While his success begins with his own genius, his story seems to suggest that the only opportunity for economic development for poor underdeveloped African countries is if the White man comes in and nurtures that genius and provides opportunities. This simply raises the question of what happens to all of the other villages without a William Kamkwamba or a Tom Rielly. William's story is a compelling and provocative individual narrative, but a troubling reminder of the difficult relationship between the developed world and the underdeveloped world. His journey seems like a unique experience rather than one that is easily replicable on a grand scale.


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