katrinaolson.ca - KO Review of He Named Me Malala

Posted on Thursday, October 08, 2015 at 10:00 PM

Movie: He Named Me Malala

KO Review: He Named Me Malala

Review by Katrina Olson-Mottahed x CalgaryMovies.com

He Named Me Malala is a documentary film about Malala Yousafzai, a 15 year old girl from the Swat District of north-west Pakistan who was shot in the head on October 9, 2012 by the Taliban for speaking out about the importance of education for women.

The film opens with a beautiful animation of Malala, a Afghani war heroine who leads her people to victory by telling them “it is better to live one day as a lion, than a thousand as a slave” with a voice over of Malala Yousafzai, who tells this story that her mom used to tell while she was pregnant with her, as to why he wanted to name his daughter Malala. The story moves from here to American news footage of Malala’s head bandaged and her body being moved from Pakistan to England for medical treatment.

The film then forwards to 2013 in Birmingham, England, Malala lives in a beautiful house with her two brothers, mother and father. Malala seems settled and content in her new home transitioning to a new way of life as a student and an international activist for womens educational rights. It is clear from this point on in the film that her father plays a very important role in her life. Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai was an educator and activist himself in their district in Pakistan and she learned from an early age that her voice mattered.

Stylistically the filming is beautiful, a lot of extreme close-ups on Malala’s face, especially the slow motion shots from the outside of a moving car window looking in on her observations of the new world around her. The animations are beautiful and tell the story with tranquil music that add to the mood and enhance the fact that this film is about a child.

Malala is asked by the cameraman if she has ever felt angry about what happened to her. She answers not at all, not with one molecule in her body, as she explains that “Islam teaches forgiveness”. We clearly see through her wearing her hijab and covering her legs in a longer skirt at her new all girls school, that her faith is very important to her. Malala is always wearing bright colors and traditional Pakistani clothing, and has tried to remain as true to herself as possible, even though she is starting a new life.

Malala travels with her father to a Kenya classroom, where we see her continuing her activism and we learn that her mother chose to drop out of school. Malala’s mother seems removed from the film. We see her trying to learn english and see her in a few situations, but her mother doesn’t seem as involved in her life an activist as much as her father. As the film develops, we learn her mother no longer covers her face in England like she did in Pakistan, but remains traditional to her values in all other ways. There is a point where Malala explains that her mom doesn’t think it is acceptable for her daughter to be shaking men's hands or looking them in the eye, but Malala challenges this and says she is equal and has every right to do so.

The film shows Malala in Nigeria with the parents of girls kidnapped by the extremist group Boko Haram and is involved in the media plea to bring the girls safely back to their families. We also see Malala on the border between Syria and Jordan, where 3 million children are displaced from schools because of the conflict in their country. We see the importance of her role as an activist is in these extreme situations.

This documentary is very emotionally charged and hopeful. It is a miracle that Malala survived and her activist spirit has not been diminished. In a scene back in her new home in Birmingham the cameraman asks Malala what her favorite book is and she pulls out the Paulo Coelho book The Alchemist. “There is a moment you need to choose to be silent or stand up”, Malala explains.

He Named Me Malala is directed and produced by Davis Guggenheim, an established documentary American filmmaker. Guggenheim is probably most known for his 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth about on Al Gore’s campaign to make the issue of global warming a recognized problem worldwide. But most recently for his documentary Waiting for Superman that focuses on the flawed educational system in America. Guggenheim’s style of documentary is very polished, calculated and easy to watch.

He Named Me Malala opens in theatres on Friday, October 9, 2015. Special thanks to Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Calgary Showtimes: He Named Me Malala >

HE NAMED ME MALALA: Malala Yousafzai in Birmingham, England. July 8, 2014. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

HE NAMED ME MALALA: Zia Yousafzai, DP Erich Roland, and Director Davis Guggenheim in Birmingham, England. Dec 17, 2013. Photo by Caroline Furneaux. © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

HE NAMED ME MALALA: Malala Yousafzai in Birmingham, England. Dec 16, 2013. Photo by Caroline Furneaux. © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved


NOTE: The showtimes listed on CalgaryMovies.com come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to CalgaryMovies.com.