Review – He Named Me Malala

Generally for Novastream I write a bunch of silly, sarcastic and often pointless opinions in relation to popular culture but there are sometimes when this style of writing is not appropriate. Serious topics like feminism, the Taliban and human rights deserve sincerity, whether it come from a negative or positive place. So when Novastream asked me to review “He Named Me Malala”, I was genuinely excited and a little bit nervous. I had already planned to see this movie anyway but to share my love for this film takes that excitement to another level. As a feminist and a male, I always feel a little bit under qualified speaking unreservedly on the topic considering that I will never fully understand all the issues. For that reason, I have enlisted the help of my sister, a young woman who is incredibly mature, intelligent and well versed in the topic. So I plan to build on the three opinions that she has gracefully shared with me.

“If anyone walks out of this film feeling anything but inspired and speechless, there is something not right about that.”

Going into this movie I was already aware of most aspects of Malala’s life in spotlight. I knew that as a young girl she had written for the BBC, she had been targeted by the Taliban when she publicly spoke out for the right for education and that in 2014 she shared the Nobel Peace prize. So I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by the stories that I already knew. Of course I was wrong, reading up on a person’s life on Wikipedia is very different from hearing the emotion in their voice, seeing the lights in their eyes flicker through all the different memories and being faced with the brutal images of pointless violence. For a person so young to be campaigning on such a large scale is always going to be impressive and inspiring.


The other side of this film is Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, the clue is in the title, “He Named Me Malala”. Unlike the book, “I Am Malala” which Malala tells a few stories of her father through her own experiences, “He Named Me Malala” is half Ziauddin’s story as well. From growing up in Pakistan, to overcoming his stutter, his own struggle for equality and his work as a teacher and an activist, Ziauddin is a hero in his own right. There is a little part of me that worries that this film is preaching to the converted, the only people that plan on seeing it will already be open to the ideas that are being represented. My concern is dampened somewhat by the fact that this film is available for free as a guide to secondary schools and college discussions which regarding the context of the story is hopefully going to be utilised by a multitude of schools around the world.

“As a young female growing up in a world very different to that of Malala’s, it makes you open your eyes to what seems a whole different world. It makes you feel empowered to stand up not only for education but women’s rights as well.”

As a young male, I tend to agree. It’s terrible that these kind of injustices are still going on in the world but this is the reality of our pale blue dot and even the smallest amount of change that you can provide makes a difference. Now I know that sounds like a massive cliché but clichés are clichés for a reason. “Cliché” to me means, over prominent truth and it is worrying that sometimes these clichés get ignored because they are written off as a boring phrase heard everyday. It may not be much but “He Named Me Malala” inspired me to donate to the Malala Fund and maybe it will also inspire you.


Throughout the film we are treated with little glimpses into the Malala Fund’s work. Both Malala and Ziauddin travel all over the world, talking to young girls in schools and help building much needed resources for these schools. There is a very steep learning curve built into “He Named Me Malala”. With all the talk of ISIS, sometimes we can forget about the Taliban and while that can be a good thing in some ways, in other’s it is not. The man responsible for Malala’s shooting, does not even deserve a name check and he has managed to brainwash a large amount of the Swat Valley community from which Malala and her family hale. He manages to amplify the outdated ideas of how women should be treated and clings to the knowledge that he is the only source of information available to some of the illiterate citizens. What feels like it should be obvious now to most people is that it is not the fault of the religion as a whole but more the ideologies presented by these people. Impressively Malala has no hate for her attackers, not even an atom, not even a nucleus of an atom, not even a proton and not even a quark of hatred. That is one of the aspects that makes here a hero in my mind and it’s quite hard not to get angry on her behalf.

“There’s something in it for everyone, whether it be Malala’s strength and perseverance or her little brother’s innocence and cheekiness. It’s just a feel good film which also addresses the issues far bigger than those happening in western society.”

More than anything, I want to make it very clear that “He Named Me Malala” is not a serious, dull, tear-jerker. This film does an amazing job of highlighting the other aspects of Malala’s life. After all, she is still a teenager, with the same hopes and wishes of any other teenager hidden beneath her struggle for equality. Malala describes her new home life in Birmingham and the audience gets a unique look into her everyday life. Fighting with her two brothers, the stresses of exams and even talking about boys. It’s not only eye-opening but quite heartwarming and funny in certain places.  Aside from that, the stories told about their lives in Pakistan are beautifully animated in a watercolour style that has a mystical and magical feel that will leave you spellbounded.


People often list their heroes as people within the cultural sphere who are doing nothing more than their job. Actors, singers, writers, while I feel it’s fair to list them as heroes of their general fields, none of these people could be classed a real heroes. Malala is the only public figure since Steve Irwin that I think could be classed as a modern day hero. A person that fights for what they believe in for nothing more than their beliefs and hopes to one day see their beliefs become a reality. I would say it’s fairly obvious that I think this film is an all round five out of five and I not only recommend but urge you to see the wonderful, “He Named Me Malala”.

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