I often complain that my homework is killing me. But Malala Yousafzai was nearly killed for doing hers. Malala’s courage, intelligence, and grace are highlighted in the documentary He Named Me Malala, directed by Davis Guggenheim and released nationwide October 9. The film begins with the ancient origins of the name Malala, and swiftly moves to introducing Malala’s family, friends, and the world in which she lives. Malala’s father, who named her after a legendary heroine who was murdered for speaking out, runs a school in Pakistan and is incredibly supportive of her. Her mother also encouraged Malala to get an education, as she denied the opportunity to receive one herself.
Growing up in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, Malala experienced the gradual takeover of her community by the Taliban, the fundamentalist terrorist group. Although she was forced to endure horrors, Malala’s youthfulness is highlighted throughout, with Guggenheim asking her about celebrity crushes and relationships with her brothers. An especially impactful moment was when she confessed that if she had ordinary parents, Malala would have two children by now. Instead, she became the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner at age 17.
As a teenager, the documentary is particularly humbling and inspiring. To see a girl my age go through so much in her own neighborhood and still have the strength to say that she’s “never been angry, not even an atom, or a nucleus, or a photon, or a quark” puts true bravery into perspective. Malala’s narration affects any person, young or old. Guggenheim follows up questions about celebrity crushes (answer: Roger Federer) with descriptions of beheadings in her town.
Malala’s story is important. As she says herself, her story is not unique. Over 60 million girls around the world are being denied an education. Do yourself a favor and go broaden yours by watching He Named Me Malala.
For more information about girl’s education and Malala, visit https://www.malala.org/