Movie Review: ‘He Named Me Malala’

“He Named Me Malala” is a captivating documentary that tells the story of young Afghani Malala Yousafzai, an advocate for children who are denied a formal education. The documentary, released Oct. 2, tells this story through wonderful visuals and stunning sound effects, creating a truly remarkable film.

Malala Yousafzai is the the 2014 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to bring education to girls across the world, specifically those in Pakistan. As the youngest recipient of the Prize, Malala shows a heroic character that the movie attempts to showcase. Because of her ideologies, however, Malala was targeted by the Taliban and nearly killed.  

The film begins by telling the origin of Malala’s name through the use of watercolor animation. These watercolor segments are inserted whenever Malala or her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, retell a story from the past. These sections are an artistic treat and serve to breakup the monotony of the documentary style filming.

The movie goes on to show the character of Malala, portraying her as a typical 16-year-old girl with her own interests. The highlights of the movie are the scenes that depict Malala as a typical girl instead of a social hero: she laughs with her family, she reads books, she goes to school. These glimpses into her character are enjoyable and lighten the heavy-handed tone of her story.

A major focus of the film is the relationship between Malala and her father. Malala’s life and her personal drive to pursue education was heavily influenced by Ziauddin’s passion for teaching. Throughout the movie connections are made between the two as they share the same ideologies of how education should work. However, the film also addresses the skepticism surrounding Malala’s rise to fame, suggesting that Malala’s ideologies were not her own but rather were forced upon her by her father.

The film’s audio is superb and adds to the atmosphere of many of the scenes. The most iconic of these is the scene where Malala begins to retell of the time when she was shot by the Taliban. The music rises as the story progresses, causing the audience to be enwrapped in the scene. The music rises louder and louder until it suddenly stops. A dead silence proceeds for the next few minutes, creating a feeling of dread in the audience until the narrative starts again.

While it is understood that a documentary film, like that of “He Named Me Malala,” has no linear plot to follow, the flow of this film seems erratic. The film jumps its focus from different periods in Malala’s life, going from her childhood to present day and then back. The film is set up thematically instead of chronologically, and this serves as a disadvantage to the film. The lack of continuity confuses audiences to what is being said during different points in the narrative.

“He Named Me Malala” may be enjoyed better in the comforts of home rather than in the theater. But despite the confusion of the narrative, “He Named Me Malala” is still a treat. 

Hunter Hensley is a sophomore English major and an arts and entertainment reporter for Cedars. He is an avid gamer who likes to play almost any game under the sun with a group of friends.

1 Reply to "Movie Review: 'He Named Me Malala'"

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    Nate October 20, 2015 (3:46 am)

    For those interested in reading about how private schools are meeting the education needs of the third world poor much better than government schools, check out the excellent book, “The Beautiful Tree” by James Tooley.