The What/Why/How of “He Named Me Malala”

he named me malala onesheetSometimes a film is easy to sum up.  Sometimes it sucks so terribly, or shines so brightly, that a quick writeup is all that’s needed.  Onward, to He Named Me Malala!

Nutshell: An interesting look inside the real life of Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai that shows not only her life and work, but takes a powerful look at the ways the Taliban corrupt and destroy their own people and religion.  Grade: A-

What is it: See above.

Why should you see it: He Named Me Malala does an incredible job with outlining Malala Yousafzai’s life, and what led her to her advocacy.  Definitely recommended for people interested in knowing more about this young lady, film lovers intrigued by Davis Guggenheim’s documentary style that melds animation and live action, and folks who want to know more about what’s going on in the world around us.

How did I like it: In a world of documentaries, most go for putting their subjects on a pedestal, or pushing them off.  With He Named Me Malala, Director Davis Guggenheim (Waiting for Superman) shows us the young Malala Yousafzai in all her aspects; daughter, student, teenager, as well as activist.

From her time growing up, looking forward to attending her father’s school, to present day where she juggles her activism with surfing the web just like any teenager.  She blushes when Guggenheim sees her paging through pics of Brad Pitt, Roger Federer, and her favorite cricket players, and doesn’t mind trading good-natured zings with her brothers.  Cut to scenes where she’s surveying schools in poverty stricken areas, and then back to her own school, where she’s no longer the top student she was when attending classes in the Swat district of Pakistan.

I would have liked more discussion on her current activism/outreach; Guggenheim shows her at schools, and traveling around the world but there’s not too much information on exactly what she’s doing beyond speaking.  Perhaps Guggenheim didn’t want Malala to become a shill for Yousafzai’s organization, The Malala Fund.

Guggenheim’s use of animation to serve as historical narrative captures the story of Malala, her father Ziauddin and her mother Toor Pekai, as well as the rise of the Taliban and how they warped Islam.  The animation is gorgeous, and echoes Guggenheim’s An Inconvenient Truth as well as Waiting for Superman.

A powerful film, as well as a peek behind the curtain to see exactly who the 2014 Nobel laureate is.

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