This post was written by Chanchala Gunewardena, Clark University 2011, Summer 2010 intern in WITNESS’ Communications Department.
Back on May 7th, WITNESS’ Christine Umali blogged about attending the Good Pitch at the Tribeca Film Festival. There, she got a front row seat to a very distinct, social justice oriented version of commercial pitching by filmmakers. She met, amongst others, Ben Nabors, producer of Moving Windmills: The William Kamkwamba Story. This upcoming feature-length documentary tells the story of William Kamkwamba from Malawi who built a fully functioning windmill based off a photograph in a book.
Last Thursday, Ben made a visit to WITNESS to tell us all about recent developments regarding the documentary and the growth and scope of the Moving Windmills Project – which now is comprised of a short film (embeded above), the feature-length documentary, a book, and a 501 (c) 3 non-profit working in Wimbe, Malawi, William’s hometown.
This special opportunity for WITNESS to engage with Ben while he is still the process, albeit the last stages of putting this film together, is thanks to unique relationships that NGOs are able to build with filmmakers through the initial congregation of both parties at the Good Pitch forum.
What most stayed with me following this meeting, was a reaffirmation of WITNESS’ own belief in video as a tool for change. As Ben presented William’s story and screened the trailer for documentary what became evident was that his team had in hand a film that not only had the power to affect its two target audiences (those in the developed and developing worlds), but also a film that had already created a change in both those being filmed and those doing the filming. William Kamkwamba experiences, often concurrently, both the amazing opportunities and pressures of being locally and internationally recognized as the once fourteen year-old windmill-building prodigy. For example, the camera that follows him provides him with a one-of-a-kind platform from which he can voice his thoughts, yet this also means it is there to record challenging coming of age moments such as his discovery of the limitations of his natural gifts upon returning to school to work towards college.
William’s small community in Wimbe also changes with both the further development of his engineering talents as well increased awareness of his story. It is exposed to new innovations and resources such as solar panel powered energy, a water well pump and drip irrigation. While the gift of new soccer uniforms and equipment has helped bring smiles to faces of William’s friends on the local team.
And finally, having met Ben, I think that the journey the filmmakers have taken with William, from Malawi, to New York, South Africa and back, has made them the very first fellow travelers (of many, they hope) to be challenged and inspired by this young man. I feel all this will be quite evident if you watch at my interview with Ben regarding some specific insights into how film creates change, how this particular film was made, and what he hopes audiences will be able to take from the story of William Kamkwamba.
Watch the interview: