Quantcast
subscriber help

artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

He Named Me Malala documentary review: teach your children well

He Named Me Malala green light

A charming film — Yousafzai is as endearing and funny as she is ambitious and brave — but also one with a vital message: how we raise kids matters.
I’m “biast” (pro): adore Malala Yousafzai

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

She arm-wrestles her little brother. She teaches her dad how to tweet. She giggles at the suggestion that she finds Roger Federer cute. She’s just an ordinary teenager. Who has become a potent feminist symbol around the world. Who is the youngest winner ever of the Nobel Peace Prize (in 2014). And all because she was shot in the head by a Taliban soldier for daring to publicly state that girls should be allowed to go to school. (Boy, did that backfire on those primitive idiots.) Working from her book I Am Malala, documentarian Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) introduces us to the young woman — she turned 18 this summer — behind the headlines and the photo ops. We already knew that Malala Yousafzai is ambitious, determined, and brave: her latest projects including traveling to Nigeria to campaign on behalf of the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram, and opening a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon. But it turns out she is equally endearing, funny, and down-to-earth. She’s simply a nice, sweet, smart person, and a delight to spend time with here.

More importantly, He Named Me Malala fills in the details few of us who’ve only followed her on the news know about how she came to be the sort of person who risked her life — and almost paid with it — for what she believes in. Malala did not spring from a vacuum. Her parents are very liberal: her mom, Toor Pekai, never got much of an education (something Malala speaks about with sadness here) and wanted to ensure that her daughter would; her dad, Ziauddin, is a real rebel himself, an outspoken proponent of girls’ education, and he started the school that Malala was attending in Pakistan when she was shot. “Education gives you the power to question,” he says here, and he made sure his fiery passion had been passed on to his daughter. (She makes it perfectly plain that her father did not push her into publicly speaking up and putting herself in mortal danger from the Taliban, but that he merely allowed her to do what she wanted to do. She is nobody’s pawn.)

The story of why her father named her as he did opens the film, using gorgeous animation to explain the cultural and historical power of that name, which encapsulates everything Ziauddin hoped his daughter might become. As much as this is a charming film, it is also an important one with a vital message: How we raise kids matters. The title of film seemed odd to me before I saw it, but it makes a beautiful sort of sense about how change comes as new generations build on the work of those who came before them, and take up the torch that has been passed to them… and it’s up to us to decide what shape that torch takes.


See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of He Named Me Malala for its representation of girls and women.


green light 4 stars

Like what you’re reading? Sign up for the daily digest email and get links to all the day’s new reviews and other posts.

shop to support Flick Filosopher

Independent film criticism needs your support to survive. I receive a small commission when you purchase almost anything at iTunes (globally) and at Amazon (US, Canada, UK):

    
He Named Me Malala (2015)
US/Can release: Oct 02 2015
UK/Ire release: Nov 06 2015

MPAA: rated PG-13 for thematic elements involving disturbing images and threats
BBFC: rated PG (brief bloody images)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

Pin It on Pinterest