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Two Popular African Books to Be Adapted into Film

Streaming giant Netflix has acquired the rights to The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind, a bestselling book by Malawian social entrepreneur William Kamkwamba. Chiwetel Ejiofor, an actor who is known for films such as 12 Years A Slave and the upcoming Lion King, directed the film, which was mostly shot in the African country of Malawi. He also plays the father of the main character.

A still from the upcoming  The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind  film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor. Photo:  IMBd .

A still from the upcoming The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor. Photo: IMBd.

Author William Kamkwamba made headlines in 2007 after he built an electricity producing windmill made of scrap material and spare parts to power his family’s house in Wimbe, Malawi. He was then invited to do a Ted Talk and later attended Dartmouth University. His book, which recounts his inspirational story from building the windmill to his new found fame, was released in 2009 and received praise from Al Gore and Paolo Coelho.

On the Netflix adaptation, Ejiofor stated, “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.”

Netflix has recently premiered other African-produced films, including South African film Vaya and Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala. Nigerian actress Genevieve Nnaji’s directorial debut Lion Heart was picked up by the streaming service in September 2018.

Netflix picking up African films seems to be a deliberate strategy to tap into a wide fanbase. The streaming service launched in all 54 African countries in January 2016. In May 2018, it was announced that Netflix was looking for a director of content acquisition to cover the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa.

According to one Quartz Africa article, “For filmmakers and producers, Netflix’s focus on Africa will be a boom.” In South Africa alone, there are currently 400,000 new subscribers since the 2016 launch. Factors contributing to this success most likely include the falling internet and mobile data costs on the continent as more mobile and internet service providers enter the market, causing competitive pricing.

In other book-to-film news, Kenyan author and University of California distinguished lecturer Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s novel Matigari is being adapted into a film. The 1987 novel is about a freedom fighter in Kenya who emerges from a forest and has to deal with the real world. According to the book description on the author’s website, “Matigari is a satire on the betrayal of human ideals and on the bitter experience of post-independence African society.”

According to Brittle Paper, Nollywood (the Nigerian version of Hollywood) Director Kunle Afolayan is attached to the Matigari film. Additionally, the project will also have South African and Kenyan film teams.