This is an endearing portrait of one of the world’s bravest young women. It is an insight into the world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was targeted by the Taliban and severely wounded by a gunshot when returning home on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The then-15-year-old (she turned 18 in July) was singled out, along with her father, for advocating for girls’ education and the attack on her sparked a worldwide outcry. Against the odds, she survived and is now a leading global campaigner for the cause, as co-founder of the Malala Fund.
Consider for a moment that for millions she is a transformative figure and an inspiration, but among extremists she has been pursued as a threat and a target. Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for ‘Superman’) shines a light on Malala and her close-knit family.
Filmed over 18 months, Guggenheim spent considerable time with the Yousafzai family in the UK and on the road in Nigeria, Kenya, Abu Dhabi and Jordan. The film focuses on the close relationship Malala has with her father, who inspired her love of education, as well as her everyday life with her parents and cheeky younger brothers. Their comments are priceless. That is not to forget snippets of her work around the world and with global leaders. She truly is a remarkable individual in every sense of the word.
You also get the impression that the family is remarkably grounded and all the better off for being so. It is amazing that they have been able to absorb all that has happened to them over the past three years and remained humble and respectful.
I am deeply moved by Malala’s story and always have been. I unashamedly shed tears while watching this teenager’s story, so full of life, so empowering. I would love to have heard more though from both her father and mother, in particular her mum. And one thing in the documentary didn’t work (and there was plenty of it), was animation. Rather than peppering his documentary with talking heads, Guggenheim decided to chart a different course by illustrating what those interviewed were talking about. Bad move, I’m afraid. It gave those components the look and feel of a children’s book.
With a family of such conviction, seeing more of them and less of illustrations would have been a blessing. I also wanted to know more about Malala’s dreams and aspirations.
So, as endearing as He Named Me Malala was, it could have been even better and was a tad disappointing for a subject of such merit. Rated PG, it scores a 6 out of 10.
Director: Davis Guggenheim
Release Date: 12 November, 2015
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television