He Named Me Malala - For the love of her father - 3.5 stars

‘The Taliban is not about faith, it is about power.’

Walking into the cinema...
Do you remember the story of the school girl who was shot by the Taliban in Pakistan for wanting to go to school? Her name is Malala. 

Overall Rating: 3.5 stars
Cinematic rating: 3 stars 
Bigger questions rating: 4 stars      

            In 2012, Malala Yousafzai was travelling to school with the rest of her classmates when a Taliban gunman came up to the bus, asked her name and shot her in the head. Miraculously, she survived the attack, but this teenager's life was forever changed after this incident. Malala had to recover in England and her family had to flee from their homeland of Pakistan. The reason for the attack was blamed on the public stand she made on the provision of education for girls in this Taliban-dominated region of Pakistan. The perpetrators may have thought they were silencing this young education advocate, but their actions quickly led to the world being aware of this incident and to the unexpected fame of this outspoken teenager. This new film from Academy Award winning director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) provides the background for her public role and opens the door to the personal life of this young activist. Throughout the narrative he provides the details of the origin for her name, her family heritage in speaking out for the rights of others, the school bus tragedy and her acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. 
           Guggenheim has become the champion of documentaries that have mass appeal. He has a knack for finding subjects that are timely and manages to develop the necessary drama for audiences to experience the life of the central characters and even prompt them to take action. In this fast-paced news world, Malala’s story may have fallen out of world-wide consciences over the last three years, but the important issues surrounding the well-being of girls education and the long-term effects of the Taliban around the world keep this story in the mind's eye of the public. The exploration of Malala’s life will take most western audiences into an other-worldly experience from the schoolgirl experience in the Swat Valley of Northern Pakistan to speaking before the United Nations on the topic of education. 
            This accomplished director manages to show the magnitude of Malala's work and talents, but allows for her to be seen as a typical teenager that is going through the same struggles of life at school, in relationships and adapting to the lifestyle that has been thrust upon her. In the telling of her story, Guggenheim utilised techniques of special animation to fill in the gaps of the family's background. This is both a strength and weakness as it provides the necessary back story, but does leave the film with a documentary pacing that can be arduous at times. Overall, the direction is very good and Guggenheim effectively delivers the adventures of this Pakistani family and the captivating personality of Malala. The story is truly carried by this charismatic young woman, her journey to educate girls around the world and the sacrifices that she is willing to make to see the world change. 
           Three key elements that stand out about  in He Named Me Malala are her faith, her ability to forgive and the devotion to her father. She chooses to remain true to her Muslim heritage, even though the perpetrators of this violent act shared a similar faith. As her father stated, the Taliban is not a faith, but an ideology of power. She also conveys maturity and courage, despite the tragedy that occurred in her life. Listening to how she has  forgiven the men who perpetrated this crime against her and the others who continue to threaten her life everyday. Finally, throughout the story she shows a love for her father and his moral ideals. Never blaming him for the life-threatening situations she was put in, but seeing the value of the fight for the rights of education for girls around the world. Even without sharing her Muslim faith, it would be hard not to be inspired by the work and the life of Malala Yousafzai. 

REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film? 
1. What does the Bible say about the treatment of women? (Genesis 1:27, 1 Corinthians 11:11)
2. How are we supposed to respond to violence? (Psalm 11:5, Matthew 26:52-54)
3. Where can we find true forgiveness? (Mark 11:25, Ephesians 4:32)

Leaving the cinema...
This compelling story is worth the time for anyone to understand the needs around the world for education of girls and for the eventual elimination of the Taliban. The film provides a very human side of Malala, but will inspire people of all faiths and backgrounds. 

Trailer for the film

Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews #henamedmemalala