He Named Me Malala

As much as I liked Best of Enemies, I hope that this documentary wins the Oscar. I just want to see Malala give a short speech.

He Named Me MalalaBoth moving and emotionally gripping, Director Davis Guggenheim’s He Named Me Malala is a documentary that needs to be both seen and absorbed. While nearly everyone knows that Malala was the young Pakistani girl who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, few know the story that describes how this little girl became an international icon.

The title of this film reflects the large role that Malala’s father played in her development. Active in his own right against the growing influence of the Taliban in Pakistan, he named his little girl after a legendary female figure in his country’s history who helped lead their country in the historic battle for independence against India.

Mr. Guggenheim pays attention to Malala’s family as they are forced to live in England after fleeing Pakistan, and her young brothers are both funny and adorable. However, you can’t help but speculate that she was the functional equivalent of a child puppet being manipulated by a father who controlled the strings. The father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, is a daring figure in his own right, and Mr. Guggenheim does not let his film dodge the significance of dad’s role.

However, it is to Mr. Guggenheim’s credit that this fundamental question is actually put to Malala. She clearly understands the significance of her name, and let me paraphrase her memorable response, “My father named me Malala, but I became Malala on my own.”

This young girl understood the significance of criticizing the Taliban, and she didn’t back down even when they started to demolish numerous schools around her country as well as killing many who opposed them. She became a public figure as she simultaneously embraced Islam as a religion while demanding that education be provided to girls as well as boys.

Her effort resulted in her being cruelly shot at school along with two friends, suffering life threatening injuries that she miraculously overcame. Though she still wrestles with the lack of hearing in one ear and scars on the left side of her head, she travels the world to aid women who suffer the effects of discrimination. This included Nigeria where she tried to provide some support for grieving parents following the kidnaping of 200 young girls.

The bold and heroic actions of Malala focuses on the unfortunate reality that we live in a world that still discriminates against women in nearly every culture. Here in the States, you really need to look no further than the continual attempt by some to have government interfere with the right of women to control of their own bodies, not to mention the attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. Furthermore, look at the hoard of male bishops and priests who surrounded the reformist Pope Francis when he visited our country, and draw your own conclusions about why women were left to occupy the outer perimeter.

Malala continues to speak to all women to stand up and be heard, and her wondrous voice resonates through the theater as you watch this documentary. The Taliban may have tried to kill her, but they failed to quiet that voice. She was loudly applauded when she gave her memorable speech at the U.N., and certain members of the movie audience proceeded to do the same thing. See the film and test your own reaction.