Review: “He Named Me Malala”

This summer as many of us were thinking about the change that Jon Stewart’s leaving “The Daily Show” would have on infotainment, I had a chance to get a lot of insight into one of the regular guests on his show — the Pakistani girl named Malala Yousafzai who has become a global champion for girl’s education.

It is a bit embarrassing to admit that a show that is known best for its comedy is responsible for me learning about this young activist and I have to say I’ve read about her in lots of places, especially when Malala accepted the Nobel Prize. But Stewart helped me see her for the young woman she is…. witty, dedicated, and so much more.

He Named Me MalalaWith that background, I was thrilled to find out that an early version of the movie “He Named Me Malala” was to be shown in a private screening during BlogHer this summer. (I was there for work and haven’t written about the conference this year but I did in the past and my friend Brian did a BlogHer 2015 post.)

I signed up the minute I read the announcement and although my time was limited in NYC, I gladly set aside time to see the film. And while I had a free pass to watch the film, and I had to agree not to discuss it until after the embargo expired September 6th, nobody has tried to get me to write a press release version of the film. They gave me a chance to see it early for free and simply asked that I share my thoughts later if I was so inclined. I tried to take notes as I watched in the dark…

At this early date, there were still some placeholders for credits, the call to action, etc. so I plan to return to see the completed film, but I can say safely that the film was very moving and provided a lot of insight into some of the challenges women and girls face in much of the world.

As I watched the movie, I was not only impressed with Malala and her family, but I thought about how many people in how many parts of the world endure so many more obstacles than we do here in the U.S. to get access to things that many people here take for granted. The film centers on education but I think there are applications for so much more.

The documentary combines footage of the Yousafzai family through the years with some really creative animation. While the film provides lots of moments where you are in awe of the wisdom and conviction of such a young woman, standing up for the right to an education…. facing the reality of being shot over her convictions…. you also see the family moments and remember she is a teenager.

I think it is the balance of these moments that makes this documentary by Davis Guggenheim so powerful. It is also why I suggest you start thinking about catching the movie when it gets to theaters in October.

Below are some of the things that stood out as I watched the film and drove me to put pen to paper — a combination of quotes & moments in time. I missed so much and the footage is so compelling, I highly recommend your going and I think I will be seeing it again myself to let more of it sink in.

Quotes / Words of Wisdom

  • Malala quote lion or slaveI love the quote “Better to live like a lion for 1 day than a slave for 100 years.” I think it is a common phrase, not sure the credit goes to Malala but it is in the film and grabbed me.
  • “I believe a woman is more powerful than a man.”  Certainly can be the case!
  • “If I had an ordinary father, I would have 2 kids.” Wow. The power of a parent clearly shown…. love the willingness to go against the tide of ordinary.
  • When asked about being angry, she says never, “not a neutron, not a quark.”
  • “Rockstars don’t do homework. They are lucky.”
  • “If you stay silent, you lose the right to exist.”
  • Awards don’t matter, change matters.
  • “The truth has to come and falsehood has to die.”
  • “Let us pick up our books & our pens. They are our most powerful weapons.”

Moments in Time

  • The footage of her at the hospital… having been shot because she was actively campaigning for the right for girls to go to school. Seeing the footage of her and her dad speaking up… that is powerful.
  • The human side of things is so touching…. love that the first thing she says when she wakes up in the hospital is a question about where her dad is.
  • Sibling humor is so familiar… Malala and her two brothers seem well-adjusted even if they are a “little naughty” now and then! Her brother thinks Malala is addicted to books. 🙂
  • if you stay silent, you lose the right to existWith a 300 year old family tree, it had only mentioned men but Malala’s dad added her to it.
  • Interesting to see her living in the UK, going to a school where girls are the cultural norm I’m used to where they talk about boyfriends and all.
  • At one point she brings up the fact farmers are so common in the area of Pakistan she’s from — wheat, rice amd maize (corn).
  • Seeing her traveling to places where education has room to build on is really interesting. For instance, she talks to a group of students in Kenya and asks the ones whose mom or dad is educated to raise their hands and no hands go up. The obstacle is so clear.
  • The fact that she has such high visibility is a responsibility…. one that she puts to work in drawing attention for topics like the school girls who were kidnapped in Nigeria.
  • The contrast of her family to the Taliban…. it is striking.
  • War can have far-reaching, long-lasting impacts — 3 million Syrian kids are not currently in school. And if you are watching the news this week you see this is only getting worse.
  • There are 66 million girls being deprived of education today.
  • Malala’s dad (Ziauddin Yousafzai) didn’t “clip her wings” …. we need more dads to stand up for their daughters, need more dads to be proud to be known due to their daughters.

There is just so much potential in the world if some of us would simply get out of the way…. maybe we could realize more of it!

About Janice Person

I'm Janice & this blog is about my passions -- photography, travel, agriculture & whatever else comes to mind. Putting all those things together is intriguing to me…. I can spend a lot of time soaking it up! It's almost always a colorful adventure!

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One Response to Review: “He Named Me Malala”


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