Review: He Named Me Malala

Documentarian Davis Guggenheim’s study of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who survived being shot by the Taliban for daring to attend school, is much like his An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting For ‘Superman’, as it might appear daunting and possibly preachy, and yet the actual experience is heartfelt, at times humourous, and so hopeful. Beginning…

Documentarian Davis Guggenheim’s study of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who survived being shot by the Taliban for daring to attend school, is much like his An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting For ‘Superman’, as it might appear daunting and possibly preachy, and yet the actual experience is heartfelt, at times humourous, and so hopeful. Beginning with an animated sequence that tells the story of Malalai, an Afghan folk heroine, we then meet Malala and her father Ziauddin, who gave his daughter the name before she became the defiant activist figure now known around the world. And with help from the family and others we’re told Malala’s remarkable story, and how, as a 15 year old student in the Taliban-controlled Swat Valley, Pakistan, she spoke out and dangerously continued attending school, until October 9 2012, when gunmen boarded her bus and tried to kill her (and others). Malala was airlifted to the UK where she underwent several operations and her family was forced to take up residence in Birmingham (the Taliban promised she will be killed if she returns home), and it’s from there that she mastered English and became a pro-education spokesperson who’s travelled the world and a Nobel peace laureate – and kept quietly fighting. Put like that, Malala might sound like some sort of feminist superhero, and yet she and Guggenheim are cautious to demonstrate that she’s really just a teenager, as she talks down her accomplishments, giggles over Google images of Brad Pitt, happily squabbles with her brother and laughs off ideas of dating with much embarrassment. How could such a modest kid have achieved so much? How can Malala forgive those who attempted to murder her? And how can a machine-gun-dependent ideology threatened by a bunch of unarmed schoolgirls be anything but bullshit? He Named Me Malala (PG) is in cinemas now

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