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Netflix Acquires Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Directorial Debut ‘the Boy Who Harnessed the Wind’


Hollywood, Calif. – WEBWIRE

Netflix has acquired global rights (excluding Japan, China and UK free TV rights) to The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind, the directorial debut of Academy Award® nominee and BAFTA Award winner Chiwetel Ejiofor. The British film is based on the bestselling book of the same name written by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. Ejiofor wrote the screenplay.

  • Netflix, Participant Media, BBC Films and BFI present, in association with Head Gear Films & Metrol Technology, Lipsync and Cornerstone Films, a Potboiler Production.
  • Synopsis: Adapted from the bestselling book by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind 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 finds a way, using the bones of the bicycle belonging to his father Trywell (Chiwetel Ejiofor), to build a windmill which then saves his Malawian village from famine. The emotional journey of a father and his exceptional son at its heart, William’s tale captures the incredible determination of a boy whose inquisitive mind overcame every obstacle in his path.
  • The film highlights the power of education and individual determination to change the trajectory of a life, a village and a nation. By telling the story of one boy’s efforts to overcome the barriers he faces to education, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind inspires audiences to imagine a future where every child, in every village, has access to knowledge and to opportunities to put that knowledge to work.
  • Screenwriter: Adapted by Chiwetel Ejiofor, from the book “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” written by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
  • Producers: Potboiler Productions’ Andrea Calderwood and Gail Egan
  • Executive Producers: Joe Oppenheimer, Rose Garnett, Natascha Wharton, Jeff Skoll, Jonathan King, Phil Hunt, Compton Ross, Peter Hampden, Norman Merry
  • Cast: Maxwell Simba, Academy Award Nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), 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)
  • Ejiofor commented: “William’s story represents, what has to be, the future in countries like Malawi: developing countries, overflowing with beauty and harboring enormous potential. 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.”
  • Jonathan King, President of Film and Television for Participant Media, added: “Chiwetel brings incredible passion and skill as a filmmaker to this moving and impactful story about a young boy who uses his heart and mind equally to help better his community. We need this kind of story now more than ever, and we’re excited to continue the partnership with Netflix that started with Beasts of No Nation and continued with ROMA to bring this new film to audiences around the world.”
  • The film was shot in Malawi last year.
  • The film will launch in 2019 on Netflix and in select theaters in the US and UK
  • The British film has been backed in development and production by the BFI (with National Lottery funding) and BBC Films with Head Gear, Metrol Technology and LipSync, in partnership with Participant Media. LipSync Post is also on board to complete full post production. Cornerstone Films is the international sales agent.
  • The deal was negotiated on behalf of Participant Media by Gabriel Brakin, General Counsel & EVP of Business Affairs and Krista Wegener, SVP of Sales & Distribution.

About Participant Media

Founded by Chairman Jeff Skoll and under the leadership of CEO David Linde, Participant Media (www.participantmedia.com) combines the power of a good story well told with real world impact and awareness around today’s most vital issues. Through its worldwide network of traditional and digital distribution, aligned with partnerships with key non-profit and NGO organizations, Participant speaks directly to the rise of today’s “conscious consumer,” representing the well over 2 billion consumers compelled to make meaningful content a priority focus.

As an industry content leader, Participant annually produces up to six narrative feature films, five documentary films, three episodic television series, and more than 30 hours of digital short form programming, through its digital subsidiary SoulPancake. Participant’s more than 80 films, including Wonder, Contagion, Lincoln, The Help, CITIZENFOUR, RBG, Food, Inc., and An Inconvenient Truth, have collectively earned 56 Academy Award® nominations and 12 wins, including Best Picture for Spotlight and Best Foreign Language Film for A Fantastic Woman. Participant’s digital division, SoulPancake (www.soulpancake.com), is an award-winning provider of thought-provoking, joyful, and uplifting content including such widely popular series as Kid President and The Science of Happiness and reaches an audience of over 9 million fans. Follow Participant Media on Twitter (@Participant) and on Facebook and Instagram. Follow SoulPancake on Twitter (@soulpancake) and on Facebook and Instagram.

About Netflix

Netflix is the world’s leading internet entertainment service with 130 million paid memberships in over 190 countries enjoying TV series, documentaries and feature films across a wide variety of genres and languages. Members can watch as much as they want, anytime, anywhere, on any internet-connected screen. Members can play, pause and resume watching, all without commercials or commitments.

About the BFI

The BFI Film Fund supports world-class UK filmmaking from talent and film development, through to production and audience development across exhibition, distribution and international sales, investing over £50 million of National Lottery funding a year.

Recent releases and highly anticipated films backed by the BFI include Mike Leigh’s Peterloo which receives its UK premiere at the 62nd BFI London Film Festival and Cold War which brought Pawel Pawlikowski the Best Director at this year’s Cannes. Both screened at the Toronto International Film Festival alongside Wash Westmoreland’s Colette, William McGregor’s Gwen, Claire Denis’s High Life, Peter Strickland’s In Fabric, Carol Morley’s Out of Blue, Richard Billingham’s Ray & Liz, Annabel Jankel’s Tell it to the Bees, Tom Harper’s Wild Rose and Amma Asante’s Where Hands Touch. Also in the pipeline for release are Brian Welsh’s Beats; Tinge Krishnan’s Been So Long; Scott Graham’s Born to Run; Chiwetel Ejiofor’s The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind; Peter Middleton and James Spinney’s Chaplin; Chris Morris Untitled Project; Neil Biswas’s Darkness Visible; Jason Barker’s A Deal with the Universe; Sacha Polak’s Dirty God; Craig Roberts’ Eternal Beauty; Jim Hosking’s An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn; Thomas Clay’s Fanny Lye Deliver’d; Iain Cunningham’s Irene’s Ghost; Gabrielle Brady’s Island of the Hungry Ghosts; Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn’s Normal People; Matthew Jones’ The Man from Mo’ Wax; Haifaa Al-Mansour’s Mary Shelley; Hong Khaou’s Monsoon; Sean McAllister’s A Northern Soul; Steve McLean’s Postcards from London; Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You; Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir; Chino Moya’s Undergods; Tim Travers Hawkins’s XY Chelsea; and Idris Elba’s Yardie.

The BFI is the lead organisation for film in the UK with the ambition to create a flourishing film environment in which innovation, opportunity and creativity can thrive by:

  • Connecting audiences to the widest choice of UK and World cinema
  • Preserving and restoring the most significant film collection in the world for today and future generations
  • Championing emerging and world class filmmakers in the UK - investing in creative, distinctive and entertaining work
  • Promoting UK film and talent to the world
  • Growing the next generation of filmmakers and audiences

About BBC Films

BBC Films is at the forefront of independent filmmaking in the UK, developing and co-producing around 12 films a year. In 2015 BBC Films was awarded the BAFTA for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema. Rose Garnett is the Director of BBC Films.

BBC Films’ upcoming slate includes eight films which screened at the BFI London Film Festival including the closing night film Stan & Ollie, starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly; Ben Wheatley’s Happy New Year, Colin Burstead, a unique collaboration between BBC Films, BBC Comedy and BBC Two; Ralph Fiennes’ The White Crow; Peter Strickland’s ghost story In Fabric starring Oscar© nominee Marianne Jean-Baptiste, which won Best Director at Fantastic Fest; and Out of Blue, directed by Carol Morley and starring Patricia Clarkson. Other films which premiered at the BFI London Film Festival include Mari, the debut feature for writer/director Georgia Parris, VS. starring up-and-coming Connor Swindells, which is currently in cinemas and Evelyn, from Oscar© nominated documentary filmmaker, Orlando von Einsiedel.

Currently in post-production is Sean Durkin’s highly anticipated The Nest, starring Jude Law and Carrie Coon; Judy, directed by Rupert Goold and starring Renee Zellweger as the iconic Judy Garland; and Sorry We Missed You, written by Paul Laverty and directed by Ken Loach.

Also on BBC Films’ slate include Yuli, written by Paul Laverty and directed by Iciar Bollain; Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir starring Tilda Swinton and executive produced by Martin Scorsese; James Kent’s The Aftermath with Keira Knightley and Alexander Skarsgård; Chiwetel Ejiofor’s directorial debut The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind; His House by first-time UK writer/director Remi Weekes; Monsoon written/directed by Hong Khaou and starring Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians); Love, a partnership between BBC Arts and BBC Films with the National Theatre, written/directed by Alexander Zeldin and based on the play of the same name which will TX on BBC Two as part of BBC Arts’ Performance Strand.

bbc.co.uk/bbcfilms

Twitter @BBCFilms

About LipSync Post

The multi-award winning LipSync Post has been providing post services to the film and television industry for almost 25 years. Recent film credits include, “Colette”, Out of Blue”, “Vita and Virginia”, “Woman Walks Ahead”, “Churchill”, 6 Days” and “The Limehouse Golem”. TV credits include Ackley Bridge”, “Living the Dream”, “The State”, “Wolf Halland National Treasure”.

Since 2008, LipSync Productions has invested over £75 million in over 180 film and TV projects. Regular festival appearances and over 200 major award wins, including multiple BAFTA-wins, have firmly cemented their reputation as one of the UK’s leading production partners.

About Head Gear Films

As one of the UK’s most prolific production and investment companies, Head Gear Films has supported over 300 projects, including such notable film titles as Black Mass, Freeheld, Trespass Against Us, Churchill, Where Hands Touch, Keepers and War on Everyone. As well as its feature film activities, Head Gear is involved in financing video games, theatrical productions, comic books, documentaries and other forms of media. Head Gear has a truly international footprint, and is active in producing and financing projects in many territories around the world.

About Cornerstone Films

Founded in 2015 by Alison Thompson and Mark Gooder, Cornerstone Films is a London/LA based production, sales and financing company with a focus on feature films of enduring quality and distinctive story-telling. Working closely with our German partners, X Filme and Beta Cinema, the Cornerstone team is passionately committed to curating a diverse range of films that reflect the world around us, ranging from authored, intimate film-making, to commercial wide release films. We immerse ourselves in every stage of a film’s journey collaborating closely with our partners from inception through to exploitation.

Cornerstone’s current slate includes: Gregor Jordan’s Dirt Music starring Golden Globe and BAFTA Award nominee Kelly Macdonald, Garrett Hedlund and David Wenham, Bart Freundlich’s remake of Susanne Bier’s After the Wedding starring Academy Award Winner Julianne Moore and Golden Globe Winner, Michelle Williams, BAFTA Nominee, Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded by the Light featuring music from Bruce Springsteen, Sophie Hyde’s Animals, starring Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat, Mirrah Foulkes’ feature film directorial debut, Judy and Punch starring Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman; Academy Award Nominee Henry-Alex Rubin’s crime-thriller Semper Fi starring Nat Wolf and Jai Courtney; BAFTA Winner, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s directorial debut The Boy who Harnessed the Wind, BAFTA Winner Mike Leigh’s British historical drama Peterloo which had its world premiere, screening in competition, at the Venice Film Festival; Academy Award Winner, Christoph Waltz’s directorial debut Georgetown starring Christoph Waltz, Academy Award Winner, Vanessa Redgrave, and Academy Award Nominee, Annette Bening; The Kill Team directed by Academy Award Nominee, Dan Krauss, starring Nat Wolff and Alexander Skarsgård; Daniel Kokotajlo’s award-winning Apostasy which had its world premiere in the Discovery section 2017 TIFF; Julien Temple’s Ibiza – The Silent Movie featuring music by world renowned DJ Fatboy Slim; John Turturro’s dramatic comedy Going Places starring Turturro, Academy Award Winner, Susan Sarandon, BAFTA Nominee, Audrey Tatou and Bobby Cannavele.


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