He Named Me Malala is the latest documentary from Davis Guggenheim (Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman). It tells the powerful story of Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager shot by the Taliban because she called for girls to be educated in her country’s Swat Valley.
I have known about Malala and her work over the years, but the film takes us through the story of how she became the impassioned, eloquent and inspirational leader that is known worldwide.
We learn that Malala is named after Malalai of Maiwand, an Afghani folk hero. That Malalai rallied her village’s troops again the British Army in the 1880s. Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, an activist and politician, seemed to have a vision for what his daughter would eventually become.
Throughout the He Named Me Malala, producers are careful with how they present the relationship between father and daughter. Ziauddin has been highly criticized for allowing Malala to place herself in harm’s way (or actively placing Malala in harm’s way), and even for naming his daughter after a folk hero that eventually died in battle.
On one hand, aren’t we all hoping to raise children to stand up for what they believe? On the other, could you let your child speak out against a merciless regime known for their brutal treatment of women and girls? Malala has said, “My father only gave me the name Malalai. He didn’t make Malalai. I chose this life.”
While the film’s hero is clearly Malala, it is clear that she and her father are on this journey together. Ziauddin even says that he and Malala “became dependent on each other, like one soul in two bodies.” The mutually respectful and admiring relationship between the two is inspirational.
I can’t say enough good things about the He Named Me Malala. It presents a wonderful opportunity for parents to give our children some perspective on this important global issue. The producers have created a Parent Discussion Guide that includes this statement:
The film is rated PG-13 because it deals with complex and difficult themes. It includes some graphic imagery including still shots from the interior of the bus where Malala was shot. For families with younger children (10-12), we recommend discussing Malala’s story, what happened to her, and her response with them before viewing the film.
You can also read the review from Common Sense Media to determine whether it is right for your family.