Inspired by the book, “I Am Malala”, Davis Guggenheim’s “He Named Me Malala” is a crisply made documentary which delves into the heart and head of the young Pakistani activist, Malala Yousafzai.
The film encapsulates Malala’s life, right from the origination of her name till she became a leading advocate for children’s rights and the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
With a blend of live shots and 2D animation narrated in a non-linear manner, the visuals cover incidents that occurred at Birmingham in England, Mingora in Swat Valley Pakistan, Maasai Mara in Kenya, Abuja in Nigeria and the Border of Syria and Jordan; as well as her interaction with world famous personalities like Desmond Tutu, Queen Elizabeth and Hillary Clinton, among others.
The 2D animation is artistically presented. With brush strokes, the frames are almost like paintings on a canvas.
Most of the film captures Malala in her elements. It gives you a glimpse of her personal space; her school life in Britain and Pakistan, the books she likes reading, her relationship with her brothers, mother and her bond with her father. It also reveals her personality, her oratorical skills and her childlike innocence.
The story of Malala is unique, inspiring and moving and is injected with quotes like; “It is better to live like a lion for one day, than be a slave for 100 years”, and “There is a moment when you have to choose whether you want to be silent or stand up”.
To give a holistic view to the documentary, the director has included a few voices of her detractors. This inclusion of the vox populi seems deliberate and forced.
With cursory references to the most momentous incidents of her life, the film fails to give us an insight into those most crucial moments. It does not answer questions like: who took her to the hospital? How she made headlines after she survived the attack? Or what went behind the scenes to get her shifted from the Pakistani hospital to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Britain?
“My father only gave me the name Malala, he did not make me (the person I am), Malala,” is the only blunt statement in this documentary that hits the nerve at the right spot.
This spontaneous response, from Malala Yousafzai, shows that she has the spunk and a mind of her own.
Malala is a perfect subject for a great documentary but unfortunately this documentary lacks her spirit.