He Named Me Malala
He Named Me Malala, directed by the Academy Award-winning Davis Guggenheim of An Inconvenient Truth, is a comprehensive portrait not only of Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate to date, but also her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai. Both have become premier figures for educational advocacy on the international stage.
The documentary covers Malala’s life today as a normal teenager, juggling all the usual vicissitudes of adolescence with her engagements as the world’s foremost activist for the right to education. Having been targeted by the Taliban for giving voice to her views on equal access to education for all, the film depicts the aftermath of the attempt on Malala’s life in 2012 and offers a bit of family and political history to contextualise the Yousafzai family’s rise to activism in the Taliban-controlled Swat Valley of Pakistan. Not merely concerning human rights advocacy, He Named Me Malala also offers a prescriptive element about having the courage to stand up for one’s beliefs in the face of adversity.
Beautifully minimalist but vividly animated sequences are strewn throughout the narrative to help the audience visualise segments that lack video footage. The most striking revelation is Malala’s forgiveness toward her attackers; she was never wrought with hate or anger, despite the Taliban’s subversion of Islam to achieve political ends and their standing death warrant on the young girl and her father.
Although the subject matter is interesting and valuable, the momentum fizzles at times. The documentary’s attempts to pull at heartstrings feel contrived and unnecessary, since any rational person would support and feel compassion toward Malala, her family and her cause. Allowing the story to speak for itself would have achieved a more natural sentimentality.
The film’s release is accompanied by a global campaign for a worthy cause, however He Named Me Malala does not effectively maintain the viewer’s interest and attention throughout. Perhaps the first-hand account of her journey, enclosed within the pages of I Am Malala, is more effective where a story told through someone else’s lens flounders.
He Named Me Malala is released nationwide on 6th November 2015.
Watch the trailer for He Named Me Malala here: