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He Named Me Malala

"‘The Taliban is not about faith, it is about power.’"

Do you remember the story of the school girl who was shot by the Taliban in Pakistan for wanting to go to school? Her name is Malala. 

In 2012, Malala Yousafzai was travelling to school with the rest of her classmates when a Taliban gunman came up to the bus, asked her name and shot her in the head. Miraculously, she survived the attack, but this teenager’s life was forever changed after this incident. Malala had to recover in England and her family had to flee from their homeland of Pakistan. The reason for the attack was blamed on the public stand she made on the provision of education for girls in this Taliban-dominated region of Pakistan.

HE-NAMED-ME-MALALAThe perpetrators may have thought they were silencing this young education advocate, but their actions quickly led to the world being aware of this incident and to the unexpected fame of this outspoken teenager. This new film from Academy Award winning director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) provides the background for her public role and opens the door to the personal life of this young activist. Throughout the narrative, he provides the details of the origin for her name, her family heritage in speaking out for the rights of others, the school bus tragedy and her acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

Guggenheim has become the champion of documentaries that have mass appeal. He has a knack for finding subjects that are timely and manages to develop the necessary drama for audiences to experience the life of the central characters and even prompt them to take action. In this fast-paced news world, Malala’s story may have fallen out of world-wide consciences over the last three years, but the important issues surrounding the well-being of girls education and the long-term effects of the Taliban around the world keep this story in the minds eye of the public. The exploration of Malala’s life will take most western audiences into an other-worldly experience from the schoolgirl experience in the Swat Valley of Northern Pakistan to speaking before the United Nations on the topic of education.

7368_malala-jordan_tanyamalottThis accomplished director Guggenheim manages to show the magnitude of her work and talents, but allows for her to be seen as a typical teenager that is going through the same struggles of life at school, in relationships and adapting to the lifestyle that has been thrust upon her. In the telling of her story, utilising techniques of special animation to fill in the gaps of the family’s background. This is both a strength and weakness, it provides the necessary back story, but does leaves the film with a documentary pacing that can be arduous at times. Overall, the direction is very good and Guggenheim effectively delivers the adventures of this Pakistani family and the captivating personality of Malala. The story is truly carried by this charismatic young woman, her journey to educate girls around the world and the sacrifices that she is willing to make to see the world change.

Three key elements that stand out about Malala Yousafzai in He Named Me Malala are her faith, her ability to forgive and the devotion to her father. She chooses to remain true to her Muslim heritage, even though the perpetrators of this violent act shared a similar faith. As her father stated, the Taliban is not a faith, but an ideology of power. She also conveys maturity and courage, despite the tragedy that occurred in her life. Her willingness to forgive the men who perpetrated this crime against her and those who continue to threaten her life everyday. Finally, throughout the story she shows a love for her father and his moral ideals. Never blaming him for the life-threatening situations she was put in, but seeing the value of the fight for the rights of education for girls around the world. Even without sharing her Muslim faith, it would be hard not to be inspired by the work and the life of Malala Yousafzai.

This compelling story is worth the time for anyone to understand the needs around the world for education of girls and for the eventual elimination of the Taliban. The film provides a very human side of Malala, but will inspire people of all faiths and backgrounds.

  • Inspiring story of this charismatic young woman
  • Documentary pacing

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Russell is an American ex-pat who has been transplanted in his new home of Sydney. He is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and the blog Russelling Reviews. He moderates events called Reel Dialogue (reeldialogue.com) which connects the film industry with the general public.

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