At the beginning of the last decade, William Kamkwamba managed to save his people from the famine. He did it by building a windmill capable of generating wind power, using a simple bicycle, the rusty parts of an old tractor and the basic engineering manuals he found in his school library in Malawi, from which he would be expelled. when his family of farmers stopped being able to pay it. In 2007, after making himself known through a TED conference, he managed to return to study and graduated from Dartmouth, one of the universities of the exclusive Ivy League. Kamkwamba decided to collect this incredible story in an autobiographical book, The boy who tamed the wind (Ediciones B), an edifying fable that pointed to new perspectives of development for the African continent.
The book came into the hands of Chiwetel Ejiofor (London 1977) a decade ago. "As soon as I finished it, I knew it would be my directorial debut," recalled the British actor at the last Berlin Film Festival, where he presented the film inspired by the story of Kamkwamba, which has just premiered on Netflix. The interpreter, the son of a Nigerian doctor and pharmacist who emigrated to the United Kingdom, recognized a familiar landscape in the novel: that of his summers in his parents' country, where he discovered a reality very different from that of his London middle class neighborhood. . "I was inspired that William wanted to save his community, but also that he saved himself. History also talks about not giving up the potential that one has. I felt that the witness was passing to me … ", says Ejiofor.
The interpreter, with a solid career in theater and secondary highlights in Stephen Frears films, Woody Allen, Spike Lee and Alfonso Cuarón, crossed the threshold of fame in 2013 when starring Twelve years of slavery, for which he received an Oscar nomination. He remembers it as a brutal experience, from which he took time to recover: for months, it cost him to talk about something more than the "inhumanity of men" at dinners with his friends. "Actually, it was not a before and after. I experienced it as a continuity with my previous work and my topics of interest, "he says.
With his new film, which has reserved the role, not always grateful, the father of the protagonist, Ejiofor investigates the consequences of that original sin. The director dodged the caricatured image of the African continent that usually uses Hollywood. In the name of the verisimilitude, Ejiofor insisted on filming in Malawi, despite its scant infrastructure to host a shoot, and alternating the English of the elite with the chichewa that the people speak, a Bantu language unlike the igbo that his parents spoke. He also avoided simplistic messages. "We have to treat Africans as equals, without condescension or paternalism," says the actor, who defines himself as "a bomb-proof optimist" and says he believes in "a better future" for Africa.
In fact, Ejiofor does not see any opportunism in the inclusive turn that Hollywood is practicing, where the opportunities for black and Latino actors have increased with respect to their beginnings in the cinema. "Many people have realized that a richer and more open cultural dialogue benefits everyone. The youth of today have not grown up with the same propaganda and the same indoctrination as we do. My generation was taught to denigrate the other, the poor and the immigrants, "says Ejiofor, who has just shot the real-life version of The Lion King, where he plays Scar, and the second part of Maleficent.
Receiving the support of Netflix, which acquired the international rights of his film, was not a problem for this staunch defender of the traditional halls, since he believes that both models can coexist. "My film advocates a new global dialogue and Netflix has allowed me to achieve it. In that sense, I found a natural partner, "says Ejiofor. "The new platforms are allowing filmmakers to reach the audience in ways that previous models never allowed. It must be clear that technology will not disappear. Everyone should sit down and negotiate and treat others with respect. "
Despite having incarnated one of the best Othelos remembered in the London theater and working with the best directors of the current cinema, many spectators continue to remember him as the husband of Keira Knightley in Love actually. "I knew your comment would end like this. I always guess when they're going to talk about that movie, because everybody gets the same mischievous smile … ", he laughs. "I think it's wonderful that he has such a long life. Is the Living is beautiful of our time … ", jokes Ejiofor. Although, in reality, they only talk about Love actually in a very specific time. "It starts a little before Christmas and ends on Valentine's Day. So now he does not touch me again until December 22. "