Film Review: He Named Me Malala

An insight into the life of Malala, whose courageous spirit and ambition inspires millions…

Posted: 28.10.15

The world knows Malala Yousafzai as a Pashtun Pakistani surviving victim of a brutal terrorist attack in Pakistan, severely wounded by a gunshot just for going to school, following the Taliban ruling which stopped all girls from attending school. She is renowned as the youngest, fearless activist who passionately campaigns for female rights and education globally. She became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Winner for her courage and tireless efforts in raising awareness through her Malala fund initiative. But we don’t know much about Malala, the teenager. Made by lauded filmmaker David Guggenheim, He Named Me Malala is a documentary revealing a rare glimpse into the life of the young role model.

What particularly moved me, was the opening animated story, depicting how Malala got her name. In honour of Afghani folk heroine Malalai, the female warrior who made history after rallying local fighters to defeat British troops in the late 1800’s, where she also famously fought alongside other soldiers. By naming her after a bold spirit, it seems that Malala’s father knew his daughter was destined to make a difference in the world, and so began the precious father-daughter relationship between Malala and her baba.

Whilst watching young Malala speak with the utmost furore and passion at public events, aired to a mass global audience, I feel in awe of her fearlessness and spirit, wondering how on earth a youngling like her, who has been through so much, is able to come out so strong. The documentary focuses on her close bond with her father Zia – an admirable man in his own right – who taught at a school he opened in Swat, Pakistan, which is where Malala’s love for learning began. As she grew up watching her father bravely speaking up in public against human rights violations by the Taliban, it is no wonder that Malala followed in his footsteps. Her fighting spirit and eloquently powerful speeches are no doubt a natural gift passed down from her Baba, thanks to his encouragement and unconditional love and desire for her to succeed and achieve her full potential.

Guggenheim has done a fantastic job in unveiling the real Malala to the audience – an extraordinary girl, yet ordinary girl at home. Scenes of Malala with her brothers, mother and father were so endearing, you can’t help but want to smile at their light-hearted banter and playfulness with eachother. By the end of the film, you will also feel a bond and attachment to her naturally sweet and simple demeanour, particularly scenes like asking her about boys and her favourite books, which act as touching reminders that actually, she is just an ordinary girl with an extraordinary destiny.

He Named Me Malala is a poignant, honest and heart-warming insight into the life of Malala the teenage girl, who just happens to inspire millions all over the world, with her infamous resonating words: ‘One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.’ The precious relationship and bond shared with her father was particularly touching and is testimony to how she has lived up to the extraordinary name given to Malala by her brave father.

Don’t miss He Named Me Malala releasing in UK cinemas on 6th November

Fariha Sabir

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