William and the Windmill

The astonishing story of how one boy's ingenuity saved his village

William and the Windmill With only a library book as his guide, 14-year-old William Kamkwamba sets about building a wind turbine in his Malawian village. Using junk parts and a lot of imagination, he harnesses enough energy to resuscitate his dying farming community, saving his family from famine. An international media sensation, William soon finds himself faced with complex choices, the burden of expectation and the constant question, "what next?"

The Producers

Ben Nabors is a New York-based filmmaker. His debut feature documentary “WILLIAM AND THE WINDMILL”, about windmill inventor William Kamkwamba, won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival. He co-wrote and produced the short film “Palimpsest”, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival (2013) where it won a Special Jury Prize. In 2015, he wrote and produced “Actor Seeks Role”, starring Alex Karpovsky and Dylan Baker, which won the Grand Jury Prize at IFFBoston and had its online premiere with The New Yorker. In 2016, his second feature documentary “The Happy Film”, about graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister’s globe-spanning attempts to redesign his own personality, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Making The Film

This feature film began 5 years ago, when I first produced a short film called "Moving Windmills", which told the story of William Kamkwamba, an innovative, imaginative 14-year-old Malawian who built a windmill from scrap. This concept -- a windmill built by a boy to save his family -- completely consumed me. William's story, and the subsequent transformation in his life and his public image, drew me into his orbit. It was clear that tremendous change would take place with this young person, and with a deep respect and curiosity for his character, I decided to follow.

Production support has been provided by {group theory}, a Brooklyn-based studio that focuses on nonfiction filmmaking. Production began in late 2007, making this a 5+ year film project. The film was shot across three countries – Malawi, South Africa, and the United States – with each culture providing context for one act of the film and a chapter in the life of William. The unexpected contradictions of success, talent and support began to take shape in front of William, and gradually this story about a windmill inventor seemed more complex than I could have anticipated. I was forced to think about the role of a documentary filmmaker in the life of his subject, as well as the larger media impact of “story” as it relates to an individual. I hope you leave the film with questions.

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