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He Named Me Malala – Movie Review

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He Named Me Malala – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Malala Yousafzai is a young person who could legitimately be called a celebrity for doing something important. When somebody like her gets a ton of media attention, it’s expected that a documentary will be made about her soon enough. Director Davis Guggenheim is not here to craft an expose nor is He Named Me Malala a deep analysis into why the Taliban shot her. We know why they did it and it was for a clearly horrible and misogynistic reason. This documentary is not about that, but rather exists to humanize her and show precisely why she grew up to fight the system that oppressed her and other girls.

The main goal of He Named Me Malala, aside from listing her accomplishments, appears to be to show she is like any other girl with her own dreams and occasional celebrity crushes. The documentary shows her going to a regular school and appearing to fit in, despite her worldwide fame. One part that should be relatable to plenty of children is how despite her strong grades in some classes, she struggles in others. There are also the squabbles with her siblings and even a scene where Malala is teaching her father how to use Twitter. It is these sorts of scenes that make He Named Me Malala more than just a glowing profile piece.

The film occasionally transitions into some lushly animated sequences directed by Jason Carpenter as we’re shown what ultimately led Malala to becoming so outspoken and eventually the shot heard around the world. It gives the proper insight into her personality and the society in which she grew up. With voice-overs from Malala and her father Ziauddin, they manage to provide the proper context and history. Davis Guggenheim knows to limit the interviews to them, rather than only celebrities gushing about her humanitarian efforts. He also edits in comments from the Pakistani public, though the reaction is less than positive, thus showing the contrast between the societies who view her as a hero and those that unfortunately see her as a nuisance.

This is not a documentary for those looking for a deep analysis. The purpose of this film is to properly inspire the audience and get an idea of how young girls are treated in other countries. The film also highlights the dangers surrounding Malala, if she were to return to her birth place and it’s almost unfathomable that such attitudes still exist in the 21st century. Her honesty is appreciated, including when she informs Barack Obama of her opposition to drones. That her parents have made sure she lives as normal a life as possible and she’s not parading around with Justin Bieber’s entourage is something to be thankful for. She is famous because she had the bravery to speak out against an unfair system, rather than because of superficial reasons.

Davis Guggenheim has fashioned this as a family film, crafting a documentary that preteens should see. Malala is a positive role model for children and it’s a better idea to aim this film at them rather than merely a grown-up audience who normally sees documentaries. By focusing on her home life, Guggenheim is able to humanize this young Nobel Peace Prize winner and show that it is possible to reach such heights and that if one sees wrong being committed, they should speak out and not be afraid of being silenced. This is hardly a groundbreaking documentary, but it never sets out to be more than a way to inspire today’s youth and it should hopefully succeed in that goal.

Stefan Ellison

The Scene