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A metaphor for courage: Why 'He Named Me Malala' is the best documentary of 2015

Sixteen is no age to win a Nobel peace prize, especially for a girl who, we discover in the brilliant documentary by David Guggenheim He Named Me Malala, likes Roger Federer, watches cartoons on the internet just before plunging into an interview on global activism, gets embraced by rock star Sunny Bono and bickers non-stop with her two younger brothers (who incidentally don’t seem jealous of their celebrity sister at all).

Malala Yousousafzai was shot by the Taliban in her home-town in Swat valley in October 2012. The bullet went to the young girl’s head. However, the fame that followed did not. Watching the film He Named Me Malala, which has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Documentary category, it's not difficult to notice how unaffected Malala remains by the fame that has overtaken her life at an age when other girls think of parties and boys.

 A metaphor for courage: Why He Named Me Malala is the best documentary of 2015

Malala with her father: Reuters

“But I can’t have a boyfriend. My brother can, but I can’t,” she giggles and tells the interviewer in the film, an observation quickly and sharply rebutted by her sibling. “She can (have a boyfriend). She’s wrong.”

This is a clearly family that has emerged from the purdah into the light of liberation and progress without losing it bearings. He Named Me Malala (‘He’ being Malala’s father who she clearly hero-worships) is a piece of heartwarming cinema. The cameras go into Malala’s home where we see her leading a normal 16-year old’s existence with her parents and two younger brothers.

The minute she steps out, the responsibility of being ‘Malala’ weighs on her. She is silent and meditative without losing her spontaneity and she’s wise way beyond her years. At one point in the film she is asked why she never addresses her suffering from the past. All we get for an answer is a hint of a smile. She misses home but says she can never go back because the minute she steps down the Taliban will shoot her again.

She may not be luck a second time.

Some of Malala and her parent’s past is recreated through animation-graphics which substantially enhances the sense of mythical fame that surrounds her. Predominant in her story is her relationship with her father, a miraculously liberal man from a conservative background who encouraged his first-born to go to school, to have a mind of her mind, to be Malala.

Malala is no longer the name of a girl. It’s a metaphor for courage, for the right of every girl child to education, and for a woman to have a mind of her own. He Named Me Malala must win the Oscar; there isn't any other story more worthy of the honour.

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Updated Date: Dec 23, 2015 12:08:15 IST