If anybody should have a film made about them, it should be Malala Yousafzai. Still only seventeen years old, she has a huge story to tell — she survived a bullet to her head, she is the youngest ever Nobel prize laureate and she stood up to the most dangerous force in her home town — the Taliban.
He Named Me Malala is a touching film which really shows what a strong, confident and intelligent young woman Malala is and why she has inspired so many other girls and women, young and old, to challenge the status quo and fight for better lives and more respect.
The film takes the viewer on a journey, showing us where Malala came from, how she managed to survive the attack and where she is now.
The film is not solely about bringing an audience together to passively watch Malala and sympathise with her. It is about making people think, make us realise how important it is to question things and speak out against our oppressors.
The story is told through the words of Malala and her family. We learn what a loving and warm family Malala has. We see the playful side to her in the way that she teases her brothers. Contrary to racist stereotypes growing up in a Muslim family, Malala is respected and her education and future, and her views and opinions are of equal value to those of her brothers and father.
Malala’s memories of growing up in the Swat valley in Pakistan are portrayed in animation. We see what a wonderful place it was before the Taliban came to power and how, in order to win people to their ideas, the Taliban claimed to care for the people and respect women. Once they came to power they seemed almost unstoppable. People are constantly living in fear, no one can question their authority and people are left feeling powerless.
However, Malala and her father are the type of people who would rather die on their feet than live on their knees, so we see them speak up and defy the Taliban’s rule. When Malala sees that education for girls is about to be banned, she becomes a symbol of resistance to this new law.
Her courage and her father’s support smash the Islamophobic ideas that all Muslims are violent and that Muslim women are passive. Far from it, Malala, like the majority of Muslims across the world, believes in peace, community and equality. She does not buy into the twisted, brutal version of Islam that the Taliban use to control people.
Her father says it clearly when he explains that the Taliban are not about faith; they are about power.
Leaving the cinema I felt that Malala’s story is there not only to engage us. It teaches us, it inspires us and it drives us to continue to fight against wars that give birth to groups like the Taliban and ISIS and to fight against Islamophobia.
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