I recently watched The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind– a 2019 film based on a true story about a boy from Malawi who helped his community after flooding and then drought severely affected their wheat crops.
I highly recommend watching it. It is not necessarily comfortable viewing, especially watching sat in a comfortable living room, knowing the kitchen cupboards are filled with food. However, it also made me reflect on values – both the ones displayed in the film and my own.
For one thing, I sat through my discomfort to watch the film. I faced my feelings of guilt and anguish at the difficulties faced by the people I was watching. Behind this, was a desire to learn more, not to turn away and the hope that I might somehow be able to help people in a similar situation. I can see that this was an example of my values – to help if I see suffering and to learn more of people’s experiences. Obviously this discomfort is as nothing to that faced by the people portrayed in the film. Movies can be a useful way to sit with discomfort in a relatively safe way (although don’t show me a horror movie, thank you!)
A strong theme during the film was one about the importance of learning and education. It was clear that this was a core value for some of the people and they went through extreme hardship to uphold this. It also made me aware of a belief I have that education should be free for all children. Is this a belief or a value? It has possibly come from external factors and my own experiences, so I am tending towards it being a belief, but probably connected to a value about fairness and equality.
Another value that was apparent in the film was about family staying together. There was clearly strong support within the family and everyone pitching in to help. It also highlighted the need to not be too rigid in the way that values are defined – we can deepen our understanding of them and perhaps see a more basic, underlying value – for example, there is a difference between supporting one another and physically living together. There are also clearly times when different beliefs and values come into conflict with one another.
There was a strong value about feeding and protecting the children first. This was a very clear example of where values help with very difficult decisions and, possibly even putting the welfare of others above our own, even when the consequences may be pretty desperate.
The topics of democracy and freedom of speech came up. Again, I was drawn to question whether these are values or beliefs. I lean towards beliefs, but perhaps with underlying values about autonomy and speaking your truth. In the film, I think the underlying value was about one of fairness and helping people who are suffering. Again, it was clear that a core value gave the character the strength and courage to do something very difficult, knowing that there may well be severe consequences for them.
I really hope that you will want to watch the movie or read the book and that I have not given anything very much away. It would be fun to look at other movies or books in the same way.