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A boy’s big idea

Maxwell Simba and Chiwetel Ejiofor (far right) (Ilze Kitshoff/Netflix)


A boy’s big idea

A famine and science education test a father-son relationship in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind tells the true story of a Christian family living in the African nation of Malawi in 2001. British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) wrote and stars in the Netflix film and also directed it on location in Malawi in just 37 days.

Trywell Kamkwamba (Ejiofor) and his wife are farmers and Christian leaders in their small Malawian village. While the couple is poor, they value education and spend precious funds to send their 14-year-old son William (Maxwell Simba) to school.

From a young age, William has shown an exceptional ability to fix and build electronics, and he’s excited about learning even more in his science classes. But when famine destroys crops and starves villagers, the family’s prospects falter.

The famine forces William to drop out of school, but his knowledge of electricity gives him an idea of how to stop his village from experiencing the ravages of famine. Still, building the solution will require his father’s help and complete trust—something Trywell isn’t ready to give to his adolescent son.

During the famine, the Kamkwambas continue to believe God will provide. But William helps the family realize God has also given humans knowledge and tools to solve difficult problems. 

Beyond being a delightful story about the power of education, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (rated TV-14 and including a violent scene) teaches valuable lessons about respect and obedience. As stress builds, the Kamkwambas’ oldest daughter rebels against her parents in order to save her own future, while William chooses to support his family.

Trywell initially won’t let his son try out his idea, fearing it will fail. In desperation, William considers forcing his father to help him. Instead he obeys his father’s wishes, even though he doesn’t understand them. Eventually, in mutual love and respect, father and son stop the famine together.