North Texas Daily

The Dose: Malala is victor and voice of equality

The Dose: Malala is victor and voice of equality

courtesy | Wikimedia Commons

The Dose: Malala is victor and voice of equality
October 08
01:50 2015

Matt Payne | Senior Staff Writer

@MattePaper

Witnessing the tragedies selflessly endured by the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner to date, as well as the leading voice for women’s rights and political rejuvenation of the Pakistani government, Malala Yousafzai, “He Named Me Malala” makes for an unmistakably dramatic documentary.

Elements intended to persuade the audience to experience sympathy for the leading protagonist and her family permeate the entire film. There is animation best likened to a children’s storybook with impressionistic artwork. Anecdotal, day-in-the-life scenes portray Yousafzai as the young, maturing girl she is. These moments characterize the documentary, as well as a musical score that follows the pace of the movie.

“He Named Me Malala” is a documentary that highlights the injustice afforded to young Yousafzai, who stood against the terrorist group that has seized her homeland. It is a touching, well-deserved platform for a contemporary, international icon.

As the movie begins, the audience is immediately faced with an animated portrayal of the Battle of Maiwand, which is led by Yousafzai’s namesake, Malalai of Maiwand. Yousafzai and her father mirror the manner in which Malalai of Maiwand and her militia opposed the invading British troops in 1880. The scene segues to focus on Yousafzai’s retrospective account of the violence while living in a residential sect of the U.K. and attending boarding school with other girls.

Rather than promoting the emblazoned, pragmatic and even peaceful campaign against the Taliban that Yousafzai is at the forefront of, the documentary is perhaps overly sentimental toward a political benefactor ruthlessly tried by inhumane treatment and bullets. The Nobel Peace Prize winner has a story that speaks volumes on its own.

The North Texas Daily recently spoke with director Davis Guggenheim and questioned the organization and presentation of the film. Guggenheim described his choice of impressionistic portrayal through animation as an appropriate medium.

“I could have done the reenactment with guys with helmets or animate it in a style that was the way I would imagine it,” Guggenheim said. “But the choice we decided was this: Imagine Malala being 11-years-old and her head is on her pillow and she’s about to go to sleep and she was imagining the story and thinking ‘I was named after [Malalai of Maiwand].’”

Additionally, familial relationships serve as a driving component of the movie. But through the films presentation and side-featuring of Yousafzai’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, the audience is persuaded to question whether Malala Yousafzai’s story is necessarily her own, or built on the foreground established by her father who initially started a school for Pakistani girls.

“Of course that draws criticism,” Guggenheim said. “Did he create her? Is she just a person of his making? I think when you watch the movie, you have to watch and draw your own conclusions. It’s the reason why I picked that title, which sort of provokes that question. Why did he name her this? What does that mean?”

The direction and focus of the documentary simply come across as scattered.

The documentary’s chief consequence is a welcome into the life of a young girl with a fascination for iPads and FaceTiming, the prospect of having a boyfriend for the first time and her tightly-knit family. Not that any of that is to be regarded with disdain, but her affiliation as an anonymous blog contributor with the BBC, and orator for the United Nations almost seem like footnotes.

According to Guggenheim, the purpose of the film was to juxtapose the dichotomy of the Nobel Peace Prize winner as both a political benefactor for uncompromising equality and a girl at a boarding school.

“I’m a 51-year-old dude and my father’s Jewish and my mother’s Episcopalian, how dare I even attempt to tell her story,” Guggenheim said. “I think Malala would say to you that my process was a great way to get her to speak about things that she, herself, had never spoken about before.”

Featured Image: Courtesy | Fox Searchlight Pictures

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