He Named Me Malala (PG)

Iqra Choudhry saw the affecting documentary He Named Me Malala - does it do justice to its powerful subject?

23rd November 2015

Named for the tragic Afghani heroine, Malala of Maiwand, Malala Yousafzai was never destined for a quiet life. Breaking from tradition and rebelling against the cultural norms of her hometown in Swat Valley, Malala stood up to the Taliban governing her region. Her defiance was met with an attempt on her life. The reason? She wanted an education. And she was prepared to fight for it.

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary follows Malala over the course of her recovery after the attack, allowing insight into her new life as both a GCSE student in Birmingham and a world-renowned activist and passionate campaigner for educational rights.

The tales of Malala’s family, including her father’s role as a role model for her activism, are told via animations, adding a depth of storytelling to an otherwise sombre piece of filmmaking. Interviews with Malala’s family and friends, and more from Malala herself give a glimpse of the extraordinary courage and resilience that drives her.

"There’s a moment when Guggenheim seems to have something deeper - it's met with a non-committal response"

There’s a moment when Guggenheim seems to have something deeper – the man behind the camera states that Malala doesn’t like to talk about her suffering. The statement is met with a non-committal response, and a hint at the hardship Malala has continued to face, having been torn away from her homeland.

There is another fleeting mention of the lack of belief in Malala’s activism – people ask how she got so famous, referring to her advocacy for women’s and children’s rights as ‘publicity stunts’ and dismissing the her cause. It’s footage that tells of the difficulties Malala and her campaigning companions face, and it would have been an interesting exploration to make. Instead, the it glosses over adversity.

Although an uplifting watch, the documentary could easily have been more rounded by showing the challenges Malala faces and has overcome.

More like this: Stories We Tell (2012)

Rating: 7/10

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