Entertainment

New documentary at SXSW traces William Kamkwamba’s journey from rural Malawi to the TED Stage

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

William Kamkwamba built a windmill out of spare parts to provide electricity for his family in rural Malawi, after seeing a similar design in a library book. It’s an incredible story — one that set TEDGlobal 2007 ablaze. William Kamkwamba: How I built a windmillWilliam Kamkwamba: How I built a windmill Now, Kamkwamba is the subject of a new documentary, William and the Windmill, which makes its world premiere at the SXSW film festival on Sunday, March 10. It is up for the festival’s Documentary Competition.

Directed by Ben Nabors, William and the Windmill begins with Kamkwamba’s incredible feat of engineering but focuses on what happened after — as Kamkwamba becomes one young man straddling two cultures. It follows him as he travels to TEDGlobal, meets with renewable energy experts in the United States, enrolls in a pan-African high school, publishes a book and founds the nonprofit, Moving Windmills, which aims to bring schools, clean water, solar power and scholarship programs to his area. The film even follows Kamkwamba on a media tour, as he films segments on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Good Morning America.

William and the Windmill is an exploration of how ingenuity ripples out through the world, and the intense pressure that builds as this happens. As Kamkwamba says in the trailer, “My pressure comes when I’m thinking about, ‘Yeah, I did this and I did this. So, now what next?’ Maybe people out there, they’re waiting. Expecting a lot of things from me.”

When Nabor and TED’s own Tom Rielly took to Kickstarter in 2011 to raise the funds to edit this film, pledgers donated more than $111K. So if you’re at SXSW, make sure to see it. And stay tuned to the TED Blog for a Q&A with Kamkwamba and information on when you can see this doc.