2nd Ave & E 47th St New York, NY 10017
4, 5, 6, 7, or S to 42nd Street.
Free screening presented with the Ford Foundation and Friends of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza
In this inquisitive documentary about the complicated power of charity, a teenager in Africa builds a scrap-metal windmill in order to transform his village, but finds his entire life altered forever.
WILLIAM AND THE WINDMILL (Ben Nabors | Malawi | 92 min.)
In a tiny village in Malawi, a teenage boy decided to do something himself. Though forced to drop out of school for financial reasons, the boy hungered for knowledge, and borrowed books from the threadbare library. But like 98% of people in his impoverished country, his home had no access to electricity, no way to read after dark, after work. So he gathered bicycle tires and scrap wood, discarded tractor parts and flattened PVC tubing, and began to assemble a tower, the tallest structure for miles around. To power his house, 14-year-old William Kamkwamba built himself a windmill. He could now read at night, and charge a cell phone to communicate outside his village. Soon he was traveling the world, invited by powerful institutions and global leaders to tell the story of how a little bit of information, a little bit of help, had changed his life forever.
The beginning of William’s story reads like a fairy tale, but whether he lived happily ever after is the central question of this intimate and thought-provoking documentary. Upon being “discovered,” William was given many opportunities: he spoke at the TED conference, co-authored an auto-biography, went on lecture tours. But opportunities also open the door to stresses, and William sometimes struggled with the good will sent his way. The motivations of his sponsors appear beneficent, seemingly doing their best instructing him how to succeed (in their world). But it’s also achingly clear that the shy and agreeable William has made tremendous compromises in the process of pursuing his new future.
And so this inspiring story of transformation also becomes a cautionary fable about the limits of charity, and the fissures across social divides that maybe cannot be bridged. As William embarks on a sponsored matriculation at an Ivy League university, not fully comprehending the nature of his situation and quietly wishing to return to anonymity, we don’t know what’s best for him. It’s still an open-ended question.
You can be a part of William’s story, and help his village, at www.movingwindmills.org
- Mark Elijah Rosenberg