Named Me Malala
The “He” in the title refers to her Dad, who is obviously a
central figure in Malala's life. And no, that doesn't mean he's
overbearing, or a little weird, it just means that he has stuck by her
through her very eventful young life, and she obviously loves him for
it. She also makes it clear
that none of her activism was pushed in any way by him; it was all her
decision. He just stood by
her. Yes, she's the
Pakistani teenager who won the Nobel Peace Prize, but maybe he should
get Dad of the Year.
Malala was named after a legendary figure in Pakistani folklore.
Malala was a young Pashtun girl during the 1880 battle against
England, who saw her countrymen retreating from the British, and climbed
up a hillside to encourage them to stand their ground.
She was killed in the subsequent fighting, but is credited for
bravely rallying the troops against their common enemy.
This is exactly what Malala Yousafzai has been doing, except the
enemy is much more pernicious: the
Taliban forces of her own countrymen.
When they take over an area, they enforce their dictatorial
Muslim rule, which includes subjugating the women, keeping them out of
the public eye, and forcing them to wear coverings when they do leave
the house. Oh, and no more
education for the girls. It's
not necessary; they don't need it. The
Koran tells them all they need to know to serve their men.
Malala was already in school, and a very good student, when the
Taliban fighters started bombing the girls' schools.
Everybody was cowed into submission; nobody wanted to speak out
against it because of fear of personal retaliation.
But Malala did. Like
her namesake from 125 years ago, she sought to rally her countrymen as
she saw them retreating in confusion and fear from the enemy.
As a fourteen-year-old, she even held news conferences, which
were widely publicized, which of course, made her a target.
And target her they did. The
gunmen attacked her school bus, and shot her in the head, and left her
Almost miraculously, Malala survived.
Told she might never speak or walk again, she underwent the
painful rehabilitation with the same determination of spirit that had
already characterized her young life.
And now, three years later, she is, in fact, able to speak and
walk again, though she wears a titanium plate in her skull, and the left
side of her face is still swollen and paralyzed, and she can't hear out
of her left ear. And her
smile is crooked. But she is
undaunted. Despite no longer
being the young beauty she used to be, she is still campaigning for the
right of girls to be educated, not just in her own country, but
everywhere. So she has
become something of a celebrity where she now lives, in England, and
even in far-off places like Nigeria, where it is often a struggle for
young girls to receive a good education.
In 2014, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest recipient of the
Nobel Peace Prize.
Director Davis Guggenheim, despite the serious subject matter,
does the best he can to introduce some lighthearted elements.
First there is the interspersed animation, using bright, cheerful
water color artistry. Then
there is the human touch: Malala
is shown playing cards with her family, jabbing at her siblings
playfully (she has an older and a younger brother).
When asked who her boyfriend is, she holds her hand to her mouth
and giggles, like almost any teenager put on the spot by a teasing
adult. But when Malala is
shown speaking to groups (including the United Nations Assembly), she
demonstrates again her fearless public persona, and we are drawn to her,
because she seems both so down-to-earth, and so determined to plead for
her cause, in a simple, straightforward, self-effacing, compelling way.
Most endearingly of all, she says she does not speak out because
her situation is unique, but because it isn't.
Hooray for Malala Yousafzai.
May your tribe increase.