In a bit of irony, the documentary by Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman) opens with a Pashtun story about a girl named ‘Malala’ (or ‘brave’) because she bravely intervened during a war. Zianddin, the father in this film, named his daughter that without of course realizing that she would be compelled to show bravery in the same way as her namesake. Malala is the subject of this film, which shows her incredible ability to discern right from wrong at an early age and speak out for what she believes in at great cost. Her passion—and the reason she was shot in the head by Pakistan’s Taliban—is education for girls. She insisted on going to school, writing a blog, and speaking publically about the education of girls—all despite the local ban on girls’ attending any type of schooling. She and her two classmates were shot in the school bus as they headed out one morning. Her wounds were treated locally but she was flown to England for additional surgery, where she and her family have lived ever since. She has been threatened to be killed if she sets foot in Pakistan again.
As is well known by news followers, Malala has continued to be outspoken about education, winning the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in 2014 and the youngest ever to be the recipient. Other numerous accolades have acknowledged her advocacy for girls and women. She continues her schooling, but also travels to places like Africa to increase awareness of the importance of education for girls.
Guggenheim’s film is an artful presentation, with beautiful chalk-like animations used to depict early scenes of Malala’s and family members’ childhoods. He shows her relationships in everyday scenes with her parents and brothers; shows her speaking internationally, including to the United Nations Assembly; working with her father in building schools; and interviewing her about her life in a western country. It’s all well done, except that I found it rather disorienting for the film to jump around in time. For example, just as it is being announced that she has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in 2013, the next scene shows some kind of unrelated event in Pakistan. This was unnerving for this viewer, and likely will be for others.
Nevertheless, Malala’s story comes through with strong emotional pulls and admiration/astonishment that one so young has managed to keep her feet on the ground and her purpose in life so well in mind.
Malala: Inspirational and heartwarming—earning all the respect she receives.