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“Teleportation Into the Rich Cultural Space of a Remarkable People”: Director Chiwetel Ejiofor | The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

Maxwell Simba in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (photo by Ilze Kitshoff)

Whenever directors watch their own films, they always do so with the knowledge that there are moments that occurred during their production — whether that’s in the financing and development or shooting or post — that required incredible ingenuity, skill, planning or just plain luck, but whose difficulty is invisible to most spectators. These are the moments directors are often the most proud of, and that pride comes with the knowledge that no one on the outside could ever properly appreciate what went into them.

So, we ask: “What hidden part of your film are you most privately proud of and why?”

In reading the story of William Kamkwamba I was always drawn to the Gule Wamkulu—the secret society of dancers that are a central part of Malawian culture. From my first trips to Malawi to start researching the film several years ago I sought out information on them and attempted to gain access to this mysterious club. The first few times I always missed them or couldn’t see them for one frustrating reason or another, but with every trip the possibility of an audience moved tantalisingly closer. Finally, on a research trip quite late in the process, we were invited to a village to see members of the Gule perform. It was spectacular, an unforgettable teleportation into the rich cultural space of a remarkable people. They were wonderful when it came to shooting too. They were tireless and understanding of our strange process. They welcomed our attempt to capture and share something of them with the world. I’m immensely proud to have members of the Gule Wamkulu in The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind and filled with gratitude for the numerous people who helped make it possible.

Sundance Responses 2019

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