Review of 'He Named Me Malala'

he_named_me_malala.jpg Inspired by the book I am Malala “He Named Me Malala” tells the story of Malala Yousafzai, a young girl from Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban for standing up for the rights of girls to an education. With a series of interviews and flashbacks, using gorgeous animation, the film largely concentrates on the events following her shooting and the world-wide fame she experienced as a result. In addition to her incredibly assured handling of the media and her equally incredible gift of oratory we see also the girl who teases her brother and worries about school work. Despite all of these pressures she comes across as very calm and collected which seems largely to do with the big part her father has played in her life.

Malala's father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, saw a need for children's education in their small town in Pakistan so ended up running several schools there that were constantly threatened by the Taliban for allowing young girls, normally restricted to the kitchen, to attend classes. At his encouragement, not only did Malala attend school but become just as passionate as her father in the cause of education for all.

“He Named Me Malala” is above all a message of hope though it is not afraid to delve into the brutal reality of the attempt on Malala's life with particularly shocking pictures of the interior of the school bus covered in blood (not only hers but other school children). The film feels a bit haphazard with the narrative jumping forward and backwards in time seemingly arbitrarily. It begins by explaining that Malala was named after a young, courageous, woman who rallied her people to attack an overwhelming enemy (and payed the ultimate price) and returns frequently to the idea of how apt this reflects the struggle Malala has faced. The film ends with Malala being finally granted the Nobel Peace Prize at age 17. Between these two points we jump between flashbacks and interviews arranged in seemingly random chronological order with no clear movement in the narrative…but, I suppose here the filmmakers believe the message is just as important as the story so a little narrative confusion is the price we pay.

Ultimately “He Named Me Malala” is an inspiring film that attempts to not only shows the public face of Malala but also of the young girl behind it. One only hopes that despite the diminishing threat of the Taliban Malala never loses her fight for children's education and remains at the forefront of such a noble cause.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2020-07-25

Directed by: Davis Guggenheim

Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Year: 2015

Length: 88 minutes

Genre: Documentary