He Named Me Malala is a documentary about the extraordinary young woman who stood up for girls' education in Pakistan and as a result was seriously wounded by the Taliban at the age of 15. The fact that she survived is amazing: the fact that she can walk, talk and live a reasonably normal life is close to a miracle. Although, of course, her life is far from normal, being the celebrity that she now is.
Real footage of Malala is interspersed with animation of the important parts of her life that are not captured on camera. The opening story of a famous Malala is also animated; it was her who inspired the men of her country to turn and face the enemy (the English) and fight for their country. Her father seems to have thought from the beginning that his daughter would be special. The relationship between father and daughter is immensely strong: as an avid educationalist, he supported her back in Pakistan when she started speaking up for girls' education; now he accompanies her around the world. Malala acknowledges the importance of her parents: 'If I had had ordinary parents I would be at home with two children now.' However, Malala is her own person. She states categorically that the path she has taken is the one she has chosen: 'My father only gave me the name Malala, he didn't make me Malala'.
The film tells her story, not only the dramatic part, but also family life: Malala the bossy older sister playing cards; Malala the teenage girl with her sporting heroes; Malala the devout Muslim; the views of her two younger brothers; her mother struggling to learn English and make her way in this strange land. All of them miss home and would love to go back to their beautiful Swat valley but, although the region is more peaceful than it used to be, Malala's life would still be in danger there. The film also gives the background to her story, particularly the slow but inexorable rise of the Taliban and the effect they had on the area (the destruction of 400 schools being one of the statistics which stuck out to me). Dissenting voices are also included: not everyone in Pakistan supports Malala and what she does.
Malala Yousafzai is the youngest Nobel Peace Laureate; she has travelled the world and spoken at the United Nations and to presidents and queens. She has visited girls' schools in places where girls struggle to get an education. She has travelled to Nigeria to meet the parents of the girls stolen by Boko Haram and to put pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan. She has stood on the border between Syria and Jordan watching thousands of refugees, including children, escaping across the desert. In all of this, her cry is 'How will these children get their education?' When she speaks she says her story is the story of many girls: 'I speak for the 6 million girls who do not go to school.'This immensely moving Oscar-shortlisted film is inspirational and should be shown in every school in the country and in every cinema. Thank you Phoenix for showing it.