FILM REVIEW: He Named Me Malala


Education. We all have a fair understanding of the power of knowledge. The doors are opened, and then closed when it’s denied. Davis Guggenheim’s documentary explores the international battle for women’s education that Malala Yousafzhai takes upon herself.

With a compassionate and almost gentle flow to it, we are swept from the extremely befitting Afghani origins of the name Malala, to the harrowing assassination attempt upon Malala’s life in her home district of Swat Valley, Pakistan. The rest of the film shows us Malala’s current endeavours as the iconic figure we now know to represent hope, promoting change in her home country and others around the world.

The beauty and warmth of the film emanates from several areas. The down to earth Nobel laureate herself. The Yousafzhai family, from which a great deal of humour originates. Lastly, the rich, sometimes dour, but always captivating illustrations that dance across the screen and give life to the stories told by Malala and her father.

The measured approach the film takes toward interpreting and laying bare the remarkable life of Malala instills an appreciation of not only her attempts, but also others trying to subvert the lopsided status quo and blind acceptance of academic inequality amongst genders.

As well as Malala’s history, her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai’s story is told. I found this just as inspiring. By starting his own school that taught both boys and girls he faced the risk of attack from the Taliban. Speaking out for what he believed in from a young age he too faced danger. His story alongside the rest of the context to Malala’s upbringing is very well told and just as interesting as her own struggles.

At the crux of this film is the relationship between father and daughter and their shared love of knowledge. This golden thread strings the entire piece together. We start with a father fearing for his daughter’s life. Later this same fear is readdressed; would a father allow his daughter to put herself in harms way. Throughout we see that the love and tutelage of Malala’s father armed her with the tools to strike back against oppression. However, it was Malala’s passion itself that is the driving force behind her cause.

Malala was shot in the left side of the head at point blank range at the age of 15 for standing for what she believed in. Guggenheim brings us the brave and groundbreaking altruist. He also presents us with her adolescent side: the squabbles with her brothers, the challenge of adapting to a new foreign school and the subtle interest in Roger Federer, Shahid Afridi and Brad Pitt “because they have nice hair”.  I’m pleased to say that as I walked out of the cinema theatre I was left wondering and questioning what I stood for and how far I was willing to go for my own principles.

By Zachary Whyte

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