Movie Review: “He Named Me Malala”

Maia Hito

Malala Yousafzai at the United Nations General Assembly held in New York City for 2013.
Photo from
Malala Yousafzai at the United Nations General Assembly held in New York City for 2013.

Many already know the story of Malala Yousafzai, but “He Named Me Malala” depicts the young Pakistani’s home life after her encounter with the Taliban.

The intimate documentary was released Oct. 2 and received mediocre responses from critics.

The 18-year-old activists for female education has her story laid out with events leading up to her being shot in the head by the Taliban, to her daily life as a worldwide idol. This short hour and a half film stars Malala herself, along with her younger brothers Atal Yousafzai, Khushal Yousafzai, mother Toor Pekai Yousafzai and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai.

Using stunning oil paintings, childhood photos and clips of precious family moments makes this movie humorous and lighthearted. However, this documentary still manages to assert a more serious tone, emphasizing Yousafzai internal and external struggles.

Inspired by the book “I Am Malala,” this documentary stays true to her biography and is reproduced in a cinematic form. David Guggenheim, director and producer of “He Named Me Malala,” was responsible for other documentaries such as “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006) and “Waiting for Superman” (2010).

Yousafzai is mainly known for advocating for female education in her native hometown, Swat Valley and is the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Up to this day she continues to speak out against the Taliban, despite the death threats she receives. She has made several television appearances on programs such as “The Daily Show” and “Ellen.”

While “He Named Me Malala” focuses on a worthy cause and spotlights Yousafzai’s must-know story, the documentary responses were average at best.

Receiving a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes and three stars on IMDb (Internet Movie Database), critics called the documentary an audio-visual package instead of a movie. The documentary was seen as another way to deliver Yousafzai’s story, which many saw as inessential or unnecessary.

Despite the negative reviews, “He Named Me Malala” surpassed my expectations in delivering an informative documentary while still staying light-hearted. The variety of pictures, animations and interviews kept me glued to the screen. Like many others, I do not enjoy watching documentaries in my free time, however this one is worth giving a try.

While reviews were mixed, “He Named Me Malala,” is a worthwhile experience that calls attention to a valuable idol and topic.

MPAA rating is PG-13 due to thematic elements involving disturbing images and threats.