He Named Me Malala




Malala Yousafzai is an inspiration and that is conveyed unforgettably in this documentary film about her and her father.

It is unique in my experience to come across a film for which the rating has to be judged by something other than the quality of the movie. But such is the case with Davis Guggenheim’s portrait of Malala Yousafzai. I came to the film with only the vaguest knowledge about Malala, the heroic schoolgirl from Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban after speaking up for female education and yet survived to do more than just tell the tale. Guggenheim’s film refers at the outset to the Afghan heroine after whom Malala was named, a figure not unlike Joan of Arc who led her people in battle against the English and who sacrificed her life. She came to represent the view that it is better to live like a lion for one day than to remain alive for years as a slave.


The parallel with today’s Malala is self-evident although on coming out of a coma following the shooting she would recover and, now based in England, would become an international figure speaking out on the issues that she had embraced through being very much her father’s daughter (her father, also featured, in the film, was a teacher very much in favour of education for all). Appropriately the film is informative about the impact of the Taliban in the region where Malala was born and fills in her family background before moving on to show her present life divided between studying for her GCSE’s and travelling the world to describe her experiences and to support female education generally.


 He Named Me Malala

However, the film has a decidedly sentimental music score, fails to explain how her regular trips abroad came about and under whose auspices, tells us rather too little about her mother’s thoughts and contains such misjudgments as a rough return to animation used effectively early on and a reprise of the shooting that goes beyond what is necessary. That means that I regard He Named Me Malala as a flawed film. But that doesn’t matter at all because, in addition to celebrating the true nature of Islam at a time when that can be forgotten, this film shows us a young woman who is utterly inspirational, one aspect of that being her refusal to feel animosity towards those who tried to kill her. Young females especially need to see this film, but we all do. Malala deserved a masterpiece and this falls short, but even so I would recommend He Named Me Malala to everybody because seeing her on screen will leave audiences impressed and deeply moved.



Featuring: Malala Yousafzai, Ziauddin Yousafzai, Toor Pekai Yousafzai.

Dir Davis Guggenheim, Pro Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald and Guggenheim inspired by the book I Am Malala The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb,  Ph Erich Roland, Ed Greg Finton, Brian Johnson and Brad Fuller, Music Thomas Newman, Animation Des Jason Carpenter. 

Fox Searchlight Pictures/a Parkes-McDonald and a Little Room production etc.-20th Century Fox.
87 mins. USA/Cayman Islands/United Arab Emirates. 2015. Rel: 6 November 2015. Cert. PG.