He Named Malala: Film Review

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I will put my hands up and say that I am terrible when it comes to watching documentaries. I rarely do, but the story of teenage activist Malala Yousafzai fascinates me so I had to check out He Named Me Malala, which is powerful, interesting and heartbreaking.

Yousafzai was 15 when she was shot in the head by the Taliban for publicly opposing their ban on girls’ education in Pakistan. She was flown to a hospital in Birmingham, where she now lives with her parents and two brothers. The documentary tells the story of her home life in Pakistan, the rule of the Taliban, Malala’s campaigning with her father and how she copes with the limelight now, school life and living in England.

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I knew about the main event and her subsequent feminist and children’s rights activism but I knew nothing else. I feel like we really got to know her and I especially loved footage of her messing around with her brothers and doing normal kids stuff – we never see that side of her. It proves that she can be a young, cheeky kid in the home. It is also sad seeing how difficult she and her mother find living in the U.K. – they wish they could return home to the Swat Valley but Malala would be killed.

I also didn’t know that her father was a school teacher, who campaigned against the Taliban even though they were murdering the opposition. It is clear to see where Malala got her voice from and her passion for public speaking for causes close to her heart. It is hinted that her father encouraged her to write for Western media about the school situation, and he blamed himself for her attack. She does not – she claims she did it all herself, but it is hard to see how that would be possible.

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Hearing about what the Taliban did to people in Pakistan made me emotional, and seeing Malala meeting refugees etc in the present put tears in my eyes. She is quiet but determined and her bravery is inspiring – she could just become a regular school girl after that life-threatening drama, but she refuses to. I am just in awe of her.

I must mention the animation. It is beautiful and I loved those scenes. It was used to show their story in Pakistan leading up to the 2012 shooting, but it is not employed too often. It really complemented the narration.

I wholeheartedly recommend this if you have even the smallest interest in Malala’s story. You will discover the young girl behind the public figure and get a clearer picture of what happened in the run-up to that tragic day.

In cinemas today 

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