Netflix has picked up Chiwetel Ejiofor’s directorial debut, “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” the story of a real-life Malawian boy named William Kamkwamba who built a windmill that helped save his village from famine.
The streamer acquired global rights to the film excluding Japan, China and U.K. free TV rights, and plans to launch the film worldwide next year — including in select theaters in the U.S. and U.K.
Ejiofor, the Oscar-nominated star of “12 Years a Slave,” also co-stars and wrote the script, adapted from the best-selling book of the same name by Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.
The film follows 13-year-old William Kamkwamba (newcomer Maxwell Simba) who is thrown out of the school he loves when his family can no longer afford the fees. Sneaking back into the school library, he uses the bones of the bicycle belonging to his father, Trywell (Chiwetel Ejiofor), to build a windmill that proves a godsend to his community when famine strikes.
The cast also includes Aïssa Maïga (“Anything for Alice”), Lily Banda, Lemogang Tsipa (“Eye in the Sky”), Philbert Falakeza, with Joseph Marcell (“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”) and Noma Dumezweni (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”).
Potboiler Productions’ Andrea Calderwood and Gail Egan produced the film; executive producers include Joe Oppenheimer, Rose Garnett, Natascha Wharton, Jeff Skoll, Jonathan King, Phil Hunt, Compton Ross, Peter Hampden and Norman Merry.
Netflix, Participant Media, BBC Films and BFI will present the film in association with Head Gear Films & Metrol Technology, Lipsync and Cornerstone Films, a Potboiler Production.
“William’s story represents, what has to be, the future in countries like Malawi: developing countries, overflowing with beauty and harboring enormous potential,” Ejiofor said in a statement. “A global story, such as this, requires a global platform and I’m thrilled to be working with Netflix on bringing William’s extraordinary tale of determination and inventiveness to audiences worldwide.”