There is a line from ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ that is very relevant to this film and the atmosphere that makes it so relevant. When Erkine reminds Steve Rogers that the first country the Nazis attacked was their own. That is true for extremist organizations like the Taliban and ISIS. Malala Yousafzai and her family lived in Pakistan under Taliban rule. She spoke out against the restrictions preventing girls from having an education and nearly died for it. The film focuses on her story and her relationship with her father. Her life in Pakistan is told with well crafted animation. There is also archive news footage mixed in with interviews with Malala, her parents and her brothers. In many ways she is shown to be a normal girl, who became extraordinary because she was challenged and rose to the occasion. She has a lot of fire and intelligence in her, that much is obvious for anyone who has seen the film or seen her in an interview. The film does offer new insights and is well put together. It’s one of the more enjoyable documentaries that has come out in a long time.
There are a couple of issues that should be addressed. One is Islamaphobia. It’s one thing for people to want to fight the Taliban and ISIS and protect the world from those organizations. It’s quite another to continually disparage an entire group of people. There are plenty of presidential candidates who are using Islamaphobia to gain political points. There are also people who want to prevent Muslims from building mosques or community centers, while having ‘Preserve Religious Freedom’ signs in their yards. Then there is the issue of the Syrian refugees. Some European countries have stated that they will only take Christian refugees. Other people fear that the Muslim Syrian refugees will become agents of ISIS. There is a question to be posed. If they really agreed with the extremists in their religion, why would they risk death to flee their home rather than simply conforming to the ideals of ISIS? Perhaps they left for the same reason the European settlers risked their lives and left their homeland in the 17th century.
One other issue to address is the constant complaining about white washing in movies. When I saw ‘He Named Me Malala’ at the Greene a couple weeks ago, there was just me and one other person in the theater. I spoke to her briefly after the film, she mentioned that she had to actively seek out where it was playing. I wish that I had promoted the film and where it was playing sooner. Also, as I’ve stated before, all the sites and bloggers that constantly complain about white washing should have been promoting films like this and helping readers know when and where to see them. It would show the studios that there is interest in people and characters who aren’t heterosexual white men. Plenty of sites have complained about Jennifer Lawrence being cast as Katniss and calling it white washing. It is a false example. In the books, as in the film she has a blonde haired sister and a blonde haired mother. Katniss had a darker complexion like her father. There is no indication that Prim is a result of her mother being unfaithful to her father, so it is reasonable to assume that Katniss is Caucasian. Some also complained about Benedict Cumberbatch being cast as Doctor Strange, another Caucasian character and called it white washing (as awesome as he was in Star Trek, people had a point about his casting there, but the film would have been more effective if they’d made him someone other than Khan- but that’s a different issue). There is nothing wrong race bending (Lawrence Fishburne as Perry White was one of the Best parts of ‘Man of Steele’ and I won’t miss the presence of racist when I see ‘Star Wars’ in December), but anyone who went to see the mediocre ‘Jurassic World’ for the fourth time instead of ‘Dope’ while complaining about a lack of diversity is part of the problem.
Malala Yousafzai is a truly extraordinary young woman, and ‘He Named Me Malala’ is very much worth seeing. It will probably be available to rent soon, but in the meantime, there are plenty of interview clips and she’s even written a memoir titles ‘I am Malala.’