The pri­vate life of a pub­lic hero­ine

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

HE NAMED ME MALALA ★★★ Di­rected by Davis Guggen­heim. Fea­tur­ing Malala Yousafzai. PG cert, gen­eral re­lease, 88 min

We’re not en­tirely clear on the mean­ing and im­pli­ca­tions of the term feng shui, but it’s a phrase that al­most cer­tainly per­tains to the un­clut­tered, pa­tient doc­u­men­taries of Davis Guggen­heim. In 2006, the di­rec­tor won an Os­car for An In­con­ve­nient Truth, a straight­for­ward bul­let­pointed lecture from Al Gore, re­plete with graphs, in­fo­mat­ics and an en­ter­tain­ing clip from Fu­tu­rama.

He Named Me Malala is sim­i­larly un­fussy. Guggen­heim’s por­trait of teenage No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate Malala Yousafzai is re­mark­able in terms of ac­cess to its sub­ject’s life. We travel with her as she vis­its school­girls in Kenya, meets refugees on the Syr­ian bor­der and – most poignantly – mud­dles along at school in Birm­ing­ham.

The film re­con­structs the day when the Tal­iban shot Malala trav­el­ling from school in her na­tive Pak­istan, but Guggen­heim is keen to avoid geopol­i­tics and cam­paign­ing in favour of small, in­ti­mate mo­ments. If An In­con­ve­nient Truth was a Pow­er­point project, He Named Me Malala is a fam­ily al­bum.

The film’s hero­ine, we learn in an an­i­mated over­ture, was named for an Afghani folk­tale, Malalai of Mai­wand, which re­counts the deeds of a Pash­tun girl who led the charge against Bri­tish in­vaders. It’s as fit­ting a name­sake as could be and, as with Malala’s pas­sion for ed­u­ca­tion, it was handed down from her fa­ther.

The pair are poignantly close: “one brain with two dif­fer­ent bod­ies,” as dad puts it. Her mother, mean­while, is a very tra­di­tional Pak­istani woman, who prefers to stay in the back­ground. She makes for a strong pres­ence, nonethe­less.

Guggen­heim de­lights in such de­tails as Malala googling pic­tures of Roger Fed­erer and Brad Pitt. This is not a grand­stand­ing, is­sue-driven project, but a movie about a teenage girl clearly made for other teenage girls. A post-the­atri­cal life in class­rooms beck­ons.

For girls: Malala Yousafzai in He Named Me Malala

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.