Film review: He Named Me Malala

Duration: 87 minutes | Director: Davis Guggenheim.Malala Yousafzai. An activist, educator, and inspiration; a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, advocate for girls’ education, and spokesperson for human rights; a daughter, sister, fighter, survivor; a bright-spirited, courageous young Pakistani woman who changed the dynamic in her country, the greater Middle East, and the world forever. “He Named Me Malala” is an inspirational, compelling, and poignant documentary that not only serves as a tribute to the 18-year-old Malala, but that brings a reality to the big screen that needs global attention.On top of welling tears, the immediate reaction after watching the film was "wow, words are inadequate." The intimacy that the footage captures is unparalleled to any documentary to date. From the animated shorts bookmarking much of Malala’s upbringing, to the scenes of the adversity she faces in her new life in England, to quick snapshots of the sibling-esque affection between her and her brothers Khushal and Atal, to the photos of the blood-covered school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, and the raw footage of Malala’s recovery at the Birmingham hospital—the film is both a reality check for what is happening in many Taliban-controlled countries, and an authentic call-to-action for each of us to fearlessly stand for Principle in our own lives and for the world.Much of the film follows as Malala tours the developing world to stand in solidarity with girls under attack by repressive ideologies that deny girls and women basic human rights. However, the film’s greatest strength is its ability to provide access for its audience to be a fly on the wall in the day-to-day life of ordinary, yet extraordinary Malala. Most notably, we are able to witness the deep emotional bond between a daughter and her father. The film’s title, “He Name Me Malala” was a perfect choice as director Guggenheim does an incredible job documenting how Malala looks up to her father, and how her father is inspired by his daughter.An issue that the film brought to light was the skepticism that exists regarding the authenticity of Malala’s activism. Some people believe that Malala’s liberal father forced her into activism. You see a series of video footage with Ziauddin speaking out against the Taliban’s unaddressed fundamentalism. He tells the camera, “If you keep silent, you lose the right to exist.” However, Guggenheim resolves this skepticism when Malala insists that her father absolutely, “didn’t push me. He let me do what I wanted.” Her father shares in an intimate interview that he feels guilty for naming her after a young Pashtun girl who became a hero after being killed leading her people against the British invasion, suggesting himself that maybe naming is destiny and that he played some part in the event that almost led to her death. The documentary showcases Malala’s genuine affection toward her father and yes, she undoubtedly has inherited his fiery spirit, but she makes it clear she is has never been forced to be an icon or spokesperson for her father’s agenda.Both Malala and her father dared to suggest that women in their native Swat Valley be allowed to have an education. As a result, the Taliban shot Malala in the head. In an intimate one-on-one interview, Malala is asked if she has felt angry. Without hesitation, she responds: “No. Not even as small as an atom. Or maybe a nucleus of an atom. Or maybe a proton. Or maybe a quark.” In another scene, her father Ziauddin is asked about the person who shot Malala and her friends, he quickly responded that, “A person didn’t shoot my daughter, it was an ideology.” These are some of, if not the most, staggering moments of the film and not to be taken lightly. These bold statements remind us that many people are displaced, persecuted, and denied basic rights by extremist ideology and if we as a global society are to eliminate terrorism, have informed foreign policy, and uphold basic human rights, we must amplify the moderates’ voices of reason like Malala and her father.With the highest recommendations, if you haven’t already, it is worth your time to watch this touching piece. It should be considered award-winning advocacy journalism, but it is also a timeless reminder of how one ordinary person can extraordinarily change the world in the face of extreme adversity. It is the true story of a young woman who stood up against an extremist ideology and fought for every girl’s right to education, even knowing the potential horrifying consequences. Movie critic Chris Nashawaty says it best: “The Taliban may have robbed Malala of her home, her childhood, and the movement of one side of her face, but now she has something she insists is far more important: a cause and a voice.”