Directed by Davis Guggenheim
Malala Yousafzai: It is better to live like a lion for one day than to live like a slave for 100 years.
This quote is spoken by Nobel Peace Prize winner, education advocate and Taliban attack survivor, Malala Yousafzai, but they are not her words. At the onset of Davis Guggenheim’s (Academy Award winner for AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH) latest documentary, HE NAMED ME MALALA, inspired by her book, I Am Malala, Yousafzai tells the story of a young girl who stood up for what she believed in amidst her war torn country only to end up being killed in battle for her intervention. That young girl is her namesake and this film chronicles how she was destined to change the world.
If you’re not already familiar with Yousafzai’s remarkable journey, you may feel a little lost going into this documentary. Guggenheim presumes you know something about how she stood up to the Taliban at the age of fifteen to defend her right to an education at a time when the Taliban was inflicting extreme violence against all schools in her home country of Pakistan that offered education to girls. She was shot in the face for her defiance, which also included detailing her day to day experiences anonymously to the BBC in diary form in hopes of getting the word out to the world. Slowly but surely, Guggenheim pieces together her incredibly brave story through first hand accounts interspersed with animated sequences that paint her picture as if it were a fable that people will tell their children generations from now. He’s probably not wrong about this either.
Given the severity of what Yousafzai endured – a coma, reconstructive surgery, rehabilitation in addition to horrible violence – I expected HE NAMED ME MALALA to be a more harrowing experience and, while Guggenheim doesn’t ignore her ordeal by any means, he seems more interested in looking towards Yousafzai’s future and reminding us that she is but a teenager. The message then is clear; if this one young person can inspire millions than one person can truly make a difference.