Amazing, courageous, brilliant --- adjectives that pale in comparison to the young woman known as Malala, in this stirring documentary, "He Named Me Malala". There are not enough effusive words to describe this remarkable pioneer for girls' rights to an education.


Named after the Pashtun folk heroine Malalai of Maiwand by her father, Zaiuddin Yousafzai, Malala was targeted by the Taliban for speaking out against their policy of denying girls in Pakistan the opportunity for school. Unless you have been living under a rock, this is the 15-year-old who was shot in the head on October 9, 2012 on her school bus by a cowardly Taliban brigade trying to silence her.


Miraculously, she survived and was flown to the UK for further treatment. She, her father, mother and two brothers settled in Birmingham, England, where Malala, now 18, still speaks out regularly advocating for girls' education worldwide. She co-founded the Malala Fund with her father, and has become so inspirational and effective in her efforts that she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, the youngest person ever to receive such an honor.


Directed by Davis Guggenheim ("An Inconvenient Truth", 2006, "Waiting for Superman", 2010), "He Named Me Malala" gives witness to this extraordinary young woman who refuses to stop championing for the less fortunate, and yet yearns to live a life of peace and acceptance.


Malala, despite her strong convictions and superb public speaking skills, is still a teenage girl who wants to be accepted by her peers, and enjoy her time in school. Watching her laugh and interact with her brothers, and play games with her entire family, like many other families, reminds us that she is still a child. But her love of education and school itself makes her a formidable adversary for those who wish to deny others the opportunity for learning.


Malala speaks with great love for her home in the Swat Valley in Pakistan. She and her family would prefer to return, but her enemies have made it abundantly clear that she would be killed. So, for now, Malala and her father continue their important work, and inspire many to take up their cause.


Guggenhiem has captured a beautiful, truthful portrait of an incredibly brave girl. She, herself, has stated that she is afraid of no one. We must applaud her fortitude and see "He Named Me Malala".


Opinion: See It Now!




She was a Nobel Peace Prize candidate at age sixteen. She was the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner at age seventeen. Now 18, she is a global spokesperson for the rights of young girls everywhere to receive an education. She is Malala Yousafzai, but she's already joined the ranks of celebrities known only by their first name, co-founding the Malala Fund with her father, Ziauddin.


"He Named Me Malala" is a documentary about the failed attempt by the Taliban to silence the voice of 15-year-old Malala, who advocated for girls' education in her native Pakistan. Directed by Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim ("An Inconvenient Truth", 2006), it is the inspiring true story contrasting one unspeakably cruel act by terrorists, and their abject cowardice, exceeded only by the courage and resilience of a young girl.


Malala and two of her classmates were shot on their school bus in October 2012 after a vote by the Taliban decreed that she must be assassinated. All survived, but Malala, shot in the head, had extensive surgery which left her partially paralyzed on the left side of her face. Thankfully, her intelligence and resolve remain intact, and she has become the singularly most recognized representative of women's educational rights the world over.


Malala's poise under pressure is already legendary. Whether addressing the United Nations in 2013, or appearing on a hugely popular television program, as she did recently on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, Malala is remarkably cool and calm, backing up her assertion "I am afraid of no one".


Her father named her after Malalai of Maiwand, a brave Afghani Pashtun female warrior and poetess who was killed for her beliefs. "Malala" translates to "grief-stricken", but, of course, Ziauddin could not have predicted the dramatic events that would shape his daughter's life.   


Although I don't think Guggenheim's documentary is a technical marvel --- it skips around a bit too much between her stay in the hospital and her post-medical activities --- there is no denying its sheer power, centered in the heart and mind of a diminutive teenager. The director also decided to use animation to depict Malalai of Maiwand's past, and it is strikingly effective.


The film was 18 months in the making, as Guggenheim became part of Malala's immediate family living in the UK. He captures them -- Malala, her parents, her two brothers --- busy at everyday activities, and as a result, his movie is rife with warm-hearted humor. He also presents riveting footage of her amazing rise to prominence, including her UN speech.


Malala is currently a student living in Birmingham, England. It is too dangerous for her and her family to return to their homeland, but as she continues to speak out, she is frequently quoted. Nothing she has publicly stated is more poignant or inspirational than this: "One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world."



Opinion:  Strong See It Now!