“He Named Me Malala” Profiles Pakistani Heroine
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Who hasn’t heard of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot for attending school?
Born in Mingora, a town in the Swat District of northwest Pakistan, her father named her after Afghani folk hero Malalai of Malwand.
An outspoken opponent of the Taliban’s efforts to restrict education for females, Malala’s father ran a school adjacent to the family’s home.
The Taliban had banned television and music. Women were not allowed to go shopping. And they warned Ziauddin Yousafzai to close his schools. The terrorist group had already blown up more than a hundred girls’ schools.
Under a pseudonym his daughter was writing a blog for the BBC Urdu service, detailing her life under Taliban occupation in Swat. In 2011, she received Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and was nominated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize. After she was revealed as the author of the BBC blog, Taliban leaders vowed to kill her.
On October 9, 2012, a masked gunman climbed aboard her school bus, asked for Malala by name, and shot her in the head. Critically wounded, she was transported to a hospital in the United Kingdom that specializes in military injuries. As we know, she survived.
The Taliban’s attempt to kill Malala received worldwide condemnation and led to Pakistan’s Right To Free and Compulsory Education Bill.
Starting the Malala Fund, she became a global advocate for “the millions of girls being denied a formal education because of social, economic, legal and political factors.” And she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Like her namesake, Malala became a heroine.
Davis Guggenheim’s documentary “He Named Me Malala” tells her story. It’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.
The film’s tagline is a quote from Malala: “One child, one teacher, one book & one pen can change the world.” Despite the admonition, she seems intent on doing that single-handedly. Her advocacy has grown into an international movement.
“I don’t want to be thought of as the girl who was shot by the Taliban but the girl who fought for education,” she says. “This is the cause to which I want to devote my life.”
Guggenheim’s credits include such feature films as “Training Day” and TV programs like “Alias,” “24,” “ER,” and “Deadwood.” He is the only filmmaker to have three different documentaries that rank among the top 100 highest-grossing documentaries of all time (“An Inconvenient Truth,” “It Might Get Loud,” and “Waiting for ‘Superman’”).
Malala has been called “the most famous teenager in the world.” She’s been awarded about a zillion honors. Time Magazine has featured her on multiple occasions as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. She’s becoming something of an Islamic version of Mother Teresa.
“He Named Me Malala” is an interesting profile. But she might just be misnamed. The word Malala means “grief-stricken.” With her positive message for young women, she seems anything but that.