Monday, October 12, 2015

Movie Review #324: "He Named Me Malala" (2015)

Movie"He Named Me Malala"
Ticket Price: $7.00
Director: Davis Guggenheim
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 27 minutes
Image Source
This documentary features the story, life, and message of Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for standing up for the right of female education when she was 15 years old.
"It is better to live like a lion for one day than live like a slave for 100 years."
Malala Yousafzai has done more before her 20th birthday than most of us will do in an entire lifetime. A spokeswoman and advocate for female education not just in the Middle East where she is from, but globally, Malala stood up to the Taliban for what she believed was right and got shot in the face for it. They thought they could silence her with guns and bullets, but her advocacy and drive to fight for what she believes to be a fundamental right has only been strengthened since their act of terror against her. In "He Named Me Malala," a film about her life and her experiences since the incident, we get to not only see the Malala who boldly stands proudly in front of cameras, but we also get to see who she is at home, away from the limelight, including how she interacts with her mother, her father, and her two brothers since the family's move to England.

It might seem shocking that someone as poised and impactful as Malala is playful and even a little wicked when it comes to teasing her two brothers, but it's also shocking to realize she only just turned 18 years old. "I'm still a teenager," Malala says to the camera, but a teenager with great power and a tremendous list of accomplishments for such a short life. To show her affection towards her littlest brother, he says she might playfully slap him across the face as a sign of love, to which she and her closest confidant, her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, both chuckle about while grinning from ear to ear. The name Malala was given to her by her father, which is also the name of a Pashtun heroine who used her voice on the field of battle to tell others to stand up for themselves, but was killed in the process. What a story for such a namesake, and what a similarity to the events surrounding Yousafzai as a person. When asked if she thought it was because her father led her into her life of activism because of the name he chose for her, she states, "he only gave me the name Malalai. He didn't make me Malalai, I chose this life." And what a life she has chosen.

"He Named Me Malala" might be something you've already heard about if you've followed her incredible story, and yet, somehow, it manages to frame her life in a new, engaging way. Amidst the details of how her father valued education as a teacher in Pakistan and how her mother has had a hard time adjusting to living in England and away from everything she has known in life, this documentary juxtaposes facts with a series of beautiful drawings and illustrated memories which is something we really enjoyed. As a whole, it dances a delicate dance between these drawings as reflections of her family's past with where Malala is now, as well as her aspirations and hopes for a future where young girls all over the world will have access to schools and education. She never dwells on her own suffering, though she has had a lot for such a young person, and instead wonders, "what can I do? How can I help?" If only more people thought like her, we might actually make an effort towards world peace.

People who already have a tainted, uneducated viewpoint about this young woman will try to bring this film down at all costs, and those who frown upon Islam for the wrong reasons will discount that the Yousafzai family are clearly on the right side of their religion. "God has sent us to this world to see how would we choose to live," Malala says as she doesn't even harbor one iota of anger or hatred for those who tried to kill her when she was just 15 years old. "The Taliban are enemies of Islam," claiming it's not about faith for them, but about power, and yet, in their quest for blood, "weakness, fear, and hopeless died and...strength was born." We got the sense that she'd do it all again if she had the chance, if it meant continuing to fight for the rights of all girls to be educated. At the end of the day, "He Named Me Malala" is about how one voice, one person with the courage to do so, stood up to a powerful force of evil and lived to tell her tale. She is a true inspiration and this documentary sure shows it.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 70%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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