“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”
That’s the message of Malala Yousafzai, now 18, in the powerful and moving documentary, “He Named Me Malala.” In 2012, she was shot by the Taliban for speaking out about denying girls an education.
She was 15, returning home on a school bus in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, when a gunman took aim. This ordinary teenager as turned into an extraordinary fearless crusader for women’s rights. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her efforts.
Award-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, a St. Louis native, has carefully crafted a gentle portrait of this smart girl. Despite its importance, Guggenheim doesn’t shout as he amplifies the urgency of educating girls worldwide.
Through interviews with Malala’s family, now living in England, we get to know the shy, soft-spoken teen who becomes a lioness when fighting for her sisterhood.
Guggenheim won an Oscar for the 2006 global warming warning “An Inconvenient Truth,” and exposed the flaws in the U.S. educational system in “Waiting for Superman” in 2011. His advocacy is evident in his storytelling technique, which blends interviews, news footage and animation in a heartfelt way.
The musical score by Thomas Newman provides soaring inspiration, and heart-tugging poignancy.
Malala suffered hearing loss and paralysis of the left side of her face. When she smiles a crooked smile, she lights up a room. She’s an old soul, and once you know her story, and that of her father, you realize she was destined to be an instrument of change in this cold, cruel world.
Her father, Ziauddin, is a lit candle staving off darkness, too. He found his voice, overcoming a stutter as a youngster, and his activism has been a strong — and loving — example to his children.
He named his daughter Malala after an Afghan warrior, and that was akin to giving super powers to his girl.
They are true heroes in a world sorely in need of them.
“He Named Me Malala” needs to be seen by people of all ages around the globe.
4 stars out of 4
- Director: Davis Guggenheim
- Starring: Malala Yousafzai, Ziauddin Yousafzai
- Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements involving disturbing images and threats
- Length: 1:27