What it's about:
A documentary tracking the life of Malala Yousafzai, a schoolgirl shot by the Taliban on a school bus in 2012, an advocate for female education in the Swat Valley in Northwest Pakistan. The style of the film beautifully blends animation (to recreate moments from the past), which is intertwined with news coverage and interviews with Malala and her immediate family, now all living in the UK.
What we thought:
Afghan legend has it that Malalai of Maiwand (also known as Malala) was a teenage girl who died in battle whilst urging her comrades to fight back against the British in the 1880 Battle of Maiwan. Malala’s father, school owner and educational activist Ziauddin Yousafzai named her after this brave soul. There’s an obvious and undeniable prophetic link here. A young teenage girl “punished” for her beliefs in the most gruesome way. Malala Yousafzai survived her punishment, while Malalai of Maiwand was not so lucky.
The film shows Ziauddin Yousafzai’s anguished face. He poignantly describes how he feels somewhat responsible for his daughter’s fate. He named her, after all. Yet, the teenager remains adamant that her father didn’t, in fact, choose her life for her. She became Malala all by herself.
The relationship between Malala and her father is incredible to watch. He describes it as being “one soul in two bodies”. And although one could say that Malala seems like a completely normal teenager in her interactions with her family (especially when teasing her younger siblings), you simply cannot deny this girl’s unique fighting spirit and incredible wisdom at such a young age.
What struck me most about Malala in this documentary is her complete and utter disregard for the material and the superficial. When asked by a journalist who the man was who shot her, she answered that it was not a person, but an ideology. Still, she has never been angry. Not even on an anatomical level, she says. Living with major physical defects after undergoing multiple surgeries for the injuries she sustained during the shooting, Malala still only thinks of others.
In 2014 a 17-year-old Yousafzai was announced as the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to bring education to children around the world with organisations such as the United Nations. She is the youngest Nobel laureate in history.
The film interestingly shows how Malala’s notoriety led to Pakistan’s rejection of her. With some saying her fame only highlights the negative aspects of Pakistani life and that she is, in fact, pushing Western agendas.
It’s a powerful film that should be seen by anyone who believes in the transformative power of education.
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