Malala Yousafzai did one the bravest things I could ever conceive: she stood against up tyranny. A young girl wanted an education and defied the Taliban and as a result was shot in the head but she survived. He Named Me Malala is about how that incident changed Malala’s life and how she became an international figure for women’s rights especially for education. The documentary follows Malala’s growing influence while she recovers, tries to balance a normal life as well tell the story of how Malala became a target for the Taliban.
The best part of the documentary is how they do reconstruction, the filmmakers only have access to Malala after the attack so while they have in-depth interviews with her and her father there is no visual way to tell those storys. But through creative animation sequences, the film enhances the talking heads and makes Malala’s origin very powerful on-screen. The animation which works like a moving painting especially highlights the importance of words and the strength that they have over all. Malala was considered a threat simply because of her voice and the sequences show how powerful a voice can be.
The film also addresses Malala’s impact and how she feels about her transforming life. People from her home town to which she can’t return she her in two different ways. Many see her as a hero, others as a coward who isn’t special at all – while the film’s main focus is portraying Malala as a positive force, the film doesn’t shy away from criticism to her. Reinforcing that focus and disproving her critics are many instances of the documentary where she willingly becomes involved in international affairs. Boko Haram’s kidnapping of the Nigerian school girls is a portion of this film and Malala was a voice for the media. The film shows how Malala is more than just a media piece for world leaders, she isn’t a photo-op, she is a leader herself. She criticizes the Nigerian president for his actions and tells President Obama to his face how drone warfare creates terrorism.
The emotional core of the documentary is the relationship between Malala and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai. Ziauddin is an educator and activist against the Taliban, his unrelenting belief makes him a target. He believes that he influenced Malala into making her decision to speak out and he feels guilt over being part of the reason why she was shot. It shows the real strength of the bond that a parent and a child have with each other, Ziauddin doesn’t want to be force against Malala’s freedom and supports her decisions even if those decisions could get her killed. He says it himself in the film that if you are oppressed and fight against it, then you are not alive – how can he stand against oppression but stop his own daughter from doing the same. This moral battle within is displayed beautifully through the film’s animation.
He Named Me Malala is fantastic insight into one of the most influential people in recent years and living proof of how powerful one person can be. It can inspire, move you and make you see children in a whole new light. We think of them as fragile, that they we as adults have to protect them but this film shows us how children can be the strongest of us.