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Davis Guggenheim's documentary about the eponymous Pakistani teenager speaking out against Taliban forces to advocate the education of girls judiciously finesses our Islamophobia to shed light on the chivalry of the youngest-ever Nobel Prize recipient.
- What's in a name? A lot, actually -
The name "Malala" (or "Malalai") has long been associated with freedom and female strength in Afghani culture. One of Afghanistan's most beloved folk heroes is Malalai of Maiwan, who led her people into battle against the invading British colonisers during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. But the Malala most of us know is Malala Yousefzai, a young Pakastani woman fiercely in support of girls' education.
In his latest documentary effort, He Named Me Malala, David Guggenheim delves into both the story of one of the world's most famous teenagers but also the intricate history of her name. It's not a perfect film, but it does a formidable job of showing us that Malala is a unique, surprising individual, and also part of a larger, longer story of humanity standing up to oppressors.
Malala Yousefzai is a familiar face and name to most of us who keep up with social media, humanitarian figures, and a little thing called the Nobel Peace Prize. One October afternoon in 2012, Malala nearly became a casualty of the Taliban's efforts to prevent girls from attending school when she was shot in the head on her school bus by a Taliban gunman. Her miraculous recovery and public speaking has turned her into a global figure for peace and education.
The film showcases her moving story, and her awe-inspiring speeches. Beautiful animated sequences show Malalai the warrior as well as the love story of Malala's parents. But the true power in this project lies in the moments where we get to better understand her family and her relationships. Her awareness of herself as a child, a teenager, a sister, and a daughter shines through typical teenage moments and lighthearted interactions with her brothers.
In one scene, her little brother berates her for her devotion to homework, and laments that she rarely gets in trouble for her naughtiness. In another, Malala shows us images of Roger Federer and Brad Pitt and talks celebrity crushes. She isn't just a Nobel laureate - she's a girl like any other who giggles over a special someone and has nerves about the dating world. She appreciates her life in England, and how she's been able to recover and continue her education, but she's homesick for the earth, people, and legacy of her home country.
Astonishingly (or maybe not so much?) Malala appears to have no desire to seek revenge or retaliation against her attackers. Her voice is full of emotion as she speaks of the men who shot her - disappointment that they ignore Islam's call for peace, and pity for their own lack of love and education. Even so, she stands against them and will not be stopped.
Just like her namesake, Malala has picked her battle and she's determined not to be defeated.
When Ziauddin Yousefzai's wife gave birth to a girl on 12 July 1997, he surely had no idea that his daughter would lead a bold campaign in the face of death and danger. But he named her Malala anyway - and she has grown into a force as legendary as her namesake.
So check out He Named Me Malala for a fascinating, if cursory, glimpse into the world of this strong young woman. It reminds us that the fight for justice is not metaphorical; it's very real, with sweat, blood, and bullets, especially for girls and women across the globe.
This review was first published on Narrative Muse, http://www.narrativemuse.co/movies/he-named-me-malala, and was written Debbie Holloway. Narrative Muse curates the best books and movies by and about women and non-binary folk on our website http://narrativemuse.co and our social media channels.
5/2/18 Netflix - A great insight into Malala and Pakistan's difficulties with Women's Rights
I was choking up in the first 15 minutes.
A ten minute Daily Show interview with this amazing young woman was a revealing as this 90 minute documentary.
Excelente documental sobre la vida de Malala antes y despuÃ©s del balazo que recibiÃ³ en su cabeza, y su lucha por la educaciÃ³n de las mujeres y niÃ±as alrededor del mundo.
Great companion to the book. Secondary, nevertheless. The book is much more powerful.
I actually saw this tonight and it was so powerful, and so touching, all at the same time, I knew I had to get the book! Don't miss it!
He Named Me Malala will break your heart and inspire you
Rating: PG-13, 87 minutes
In a Nutshell: This true story is one that needs to be told.
Unfortunately, the film is underwhelming considering the importance of the subject material. It is informative, but not engrossing enough to create raving fans or high box office sales.
The film is a powerful educational tool for teenagers and even comes with free discussion guides for teachers to use in a classroom setting. #WithMalala Hopefully, teens, especially girls, will be inspired and motivated to make a positive difference in the world.
Stand up for what is right. Stand up for rights.
Countless unsung heroes have paid the price for freedom.
"It's better to live like a lion for one day than to live like a slave for a hundred years." - Malala
"It is so hard to get things done in this world. You try and too often it doesn't work, but you have to continue and you never give up." - Malala
"Change matters." - Malala's father
Education is power. Malala's father stated, "When you educate a girl, it transforms her. It transforms our world." So true.
"There's a moment when you have to choose whether to be silent or to stand up." - Malala
Things I liked:
It was smart to use animation sequences to separate the past from the present, as the film jumps back and forth in time.
Malala's father is truly remarkable. The film explains that his family pedigree only included the names of men for 300 years, until he was the first to add his daughter's name to it. He has such a better way of seeing the world than is common in his culture. He has done a lot for women's rights and forward thinking.
It's impressive to hear the profound things Malala says and then remember that she is still a teenager. She received the Nobel Peace Prize and was listed in the Top 100 Most Influential People by Time magazine.
I thought it was interesting that, although Malala would be killed if she returned to Pakistan, she still wanted to go back. She said, "I miss the dirty streets."
There are so many positive lessons to be gleaned from Malala's story and life. Her father stammers sometimes and she said that she was impressed with his persistence and never let his speech impediment slow him down. She suggested to him that he simply choose another word when he stumbles on a particular word, but instead, he persists until he finally gets it right. Impressive man.
Things I didn't like:
Sometimes it's hard to understand Malala's accent.
It took me awhile to get into the movie, but by the end, I was glad I spent the time to learn more about Malala and her story.
The beautiful home in England where Malala's family now lives and all of the media coverage make you wonder who it was who pushed for all of the attention and how much money was made from her story. Some people have been critical of Malala's father, saying that he orchestrated all of the coverage in order to gain money and notoriety. When confronted with that criticism, Malala stated, "My father gave me the name Malala. He did not make me Malala. I chose this life." Good answer.
It feels more like a documentary than a feature film.
Malala's little brother talks about how she slaps him every day. She explains it's a loving gesture. I understand the filmmakers were trying to show her playful relationship with her siblings, but considering the film is about violence, I wouldn't have highlighted that interaction.
A clip shows Malala saying, "I believe there is no difference between a man and woman," but then immediately says, "A woman is more powerful than a man." Huh? While Malala says some very insightful things in the film, that inconsistent logic shouldn't have been included.
There isn't very much humor, so the movie can feel very heavy after awhile.
Interesting and inspiring lines:
"Dear sisters, don't be fooled by superstitions." - radio host who inspired Malala as a young girl
"School was my home." - Malala (Her father was a school teacher, so she spent many hours playing and studying in the school where he taught.)
"I think she's not independent and free because she's not educated." - Malala said this about her mother
"I think she's addicted to books." - Malala's brother said this about her. Later, she explains "One book can change the world."
"I saw her completion in me and I saw my completion in her." - Malala's father said this about when he first met his wife.
"God is not that tiny." - Malala
An interviewer asked Malala's father who shot her. He answered, "It was not a person. It was an ideology."
In speaking about the Taliban, Malala stated, "They were not about faith. They were about power."
"If my rights are violated, and I keep silent, I should better die than live." - Malala's father
"Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons." - Malala
"A conscience exists in the world that extends beyond all boundaries." - Malala's father
TIPS FOR PARENTS
Young children may be bored. The topics are serious, political, and often dark.
There is a scene that describes when Malala and some of her classmates were shot on a school bus. You see some blood on the bus, which could be frightening for young children.
There is some live footage of past events, but most of the violent history is shown in animation.
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