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Meet the 2013 SXSW Filmmakers #14: Brooklyn Based Filmmaker Ben Nabors Journeys to Africa in 'William and the Windmill'

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire March 1, 2013 at 10:25AM

Ben Nabors will probably never forget his journey making "William and the Windmill." It was a 5 year project as well as his first feature film and directorial debut. However, he's not a newcomer to the film world. In 2010, Nabors founded {group theory}, a collaboration-driven production studio that creates documentaries, short narratives, cartoons, and branded content. He's received several filmmaking grants including: Participant Pictures (by way of the Pangea Day Film Festival), The Tribeca Institute, The Fledgling Fund, and the True/False Film Festival (by way of Ashoka).
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Ben Nabors
Ben Nabors will probably never forget his journey making "William and the Windmill." It was a 5 year project as well as his first feature film and directorial debut. However, he's not a newcomer to the film world. In 2010, Nabors founded {group theory}, a collaboration-driven production studio that creates documentaries, short narratives, cartoons, and branded content. He's received several filmmaking grants including: Participant Pictures (by way of the Pangea Day Film Festival), The Tribeca Institute, The Fledgling Fund, and the True/False Film Festival (by way of Ashoka).

What it's about: William Kamkwamba, a young Malawian, builds a power-generating windmill from junk parts to rescue his family from famine, transforming his life and catapulting him on to the the world stage.  His fame and success lead him to new opportunities and complex choices about his future, distancing him from the life he once knew.

What else do you want audiences to know? "In my other projects, I tend to work as a writer and creative producer, but on this film these positions somehow merged. All said, this is a very personal story (for both myself and the subject) over which I feel both a sense of authorship and some form of implication. There was no way to properly tell the story, without getting involved, which I hope becomes more clear as you see the film."

On what he hopes audiences will walk away with: "It is easy for stories of accomplishment and stories of success to be oversimplified in popular media. This surface approach to nonfiction can lead to difficult outcomes for the people who volunteer their privacy to a documentary filmmaker. In making this film, I felt a tremendous responsibility to William Kamkwamba, and we have strived to create a complete and accurate portrait, rich with the amazing triumphs and inconsistencies that I saw in his life. We have tried to capture that complexity.  With these personal parameters in place, I can only hope that the SXSW audience comes away with an emotional response to the film. And more questions than I thought to ask, not just about the movie."

'William and the Windmill' Still


What's next: "I have several ongoing projects right now. I'm producing a film about graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister called "The Happy Film". In the film, Sagmeister conducts a series of self-experiments to see if he can make himself happier. In some ways, it's a film about a systematic pursuit of happiness. In other ways, it is a film about the kind of individual that would develop a systematic pursuit of happiness.  For the past three years, I've been collaborating with director Jacob Cohl on a behind-the-scenes documentary film about Spider-Man on Broadway. That film is awaiting its day.  Earlier this year I had a short film at Sundance. The film was well received, and earned a Special Jury Prize. More importantly, myself and director Michael Tyburski felt compelled to expand the concept into a feature. We're writing that script now.

Indiewire invited SXSW Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013 festival.

Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on March 8 for the latest profiles.


This article is related to: South By Southwest Film Conference and Festival (SXSW)