“When I was little, many people would say, ‘Change Malala’s name. It’s a bad name, it means sad.’ But my father would always say, ‘No, it has another meaning. Bravery’.”
Powerful, riveting, and moving, the documentary film “He Named Me Malala” directed by David Guggenheim portrays 18-year-old Malala Yousafzai and her inspiring story fighting for her and other individuals’ right to education. The film was released in theaters on Oct. 2.
During Malala’s early teenage years in Pakistan, the Taliban, a fundamentalist Muslim group of Afghanistan and western Pakistan, suppressed girls from receiving an education. The Taliban bombed over 400 schools and brutally killed individuals who spoke against them. When Malala first spoke out, she was only 14 years of age. By openly condemning the Taliban and fighting for her right to education, Malala knew she was putting her life at risk.
While Malala was in a school bus, a Taliban gunman intruded the school bus and shot her in the left forehead. Her brain was damaged and part of her skull had to be removed. Under the best medical treatment available, Malala survived and recovered.
When asked who the gunman was, her father replied, “It wasn’t a man. It was an ideology.”
One of the main themes of the film was the power of one’s voice. Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father, felt that he was born to use his voice. He felt that he could not live without speaking out against the wrongs in society. After he spoke out against the Taliban, he had to adopt an irregular schedule of living to evade from being found and killed by the Taliban. In his speeches, he spoke with fire, fervor, and conviction, traits that Malala admired and acquired. Her father also educated her on non-traditional thinking and nodded proudly when she said “A woman is more powerful than a man.”
Intense and emotional scenes were balanced with light-hearted, humorous scenes. Some clips showed Malala as a “normal girl”. She arm-wrestles with her brother (and wins), admires pictures of her favorite male athletes, and teaches her dad how to use Twitter. She works incredibly hard in school and has a love for reading. Viewers feel a sense of honesty and groundedness that may allow them to connect with Malala on a more personal level.
At the end of the movie, Malala wins the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17. She states that her way of life, pouring her efforts into educational rights for all, will continue. Malala stands as a symbol for bravery and justice, inspiring individuals across the world.