The Taliban is bad.
As a young girl growing up in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai has always had a lot of stuff to say on her mind. Most of that comes from the fact that her father was and has always been the same way, but seeing the world for what it is, Malala always had something to say, especially about the injustices in the world that so often tended to be occurring right around. Sob that’s why, when she realized that women in her native land were being treated terribly and not at all how women should be treated, as well as their education, Malala spoke up for the whole world to see and hear. Obviously, the Taliban wasn’t too happy about this, so they attacked her and her family with rocks and guns, actually going so far as to shoot Malala and leaving her in a coma. Unfettered, Malala eventually woke up and believe it or not, continued on with saying whatever it is that she wanted to say, and as a result of this, became a leading advocate for children’s rights and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
There is nothing wrong with a movie being as completely enamored and in love with Malala Yousafzai. She’s a smart, independent, and compelling woman who, believe it or not, isn’t as old as her wise ways may have her appear to be. However, there is such a thing as maybe being “too much” of being enamored and in love with her? In a way, director Davis Guggenheim can’t keep himself away from focusing on everything great that Malala herself has done, said, and is still doing for the world around her, that he actually forgets to go any deeper or further into just who this woman is.
Sure, we know that she spoke out against the Taliban, was shot, and made into this hero, but how does she feel about that? Does she like it? Hate it? How does she get by in the world around her, with all of this fame and notoriety chasing her everywhere she goes? Also, how does she feel about what’s going on in the current political climate? Is she for all of Obama’s policies? What’s her feeling about ISIS? What does she feel should be done to stop terrorism as a whole?
All of these questions may seem a bit much, but are absolutely necessary for a movie like He Named Me Malala – one that doesn’t ask a single one of these questions.
Instead, Guggenheim focuses in on Malala’s significance, her achievements, and her whole family. There’s nothing wrong with this and, in ways, Guggenheim probably gets the best bits of insight out of these moments where it’s just Malala and her family hanging around one another, but really, there’s not enough of these moments. We get to hear a lot about her father, his upbringing, as well as her upbringing, and they can do a lot to fill in the spaces between the present and the past, but really, they amount to just giving us backstory.
What He Named Me Malala so desperately needs is substance, and a whole lot more of it. To just show Malala herself as a woman who stood-up for what she believed in and spoke her mind, only to then get punished for it all, isn’t quite enough. In a way, all you’re doing is writing a news article, with possible follow-up stories to occur. But considering that this is a documentary in which Guggenheim had all of this access to Malala, her family, as well as their thoughts and feelings on just about everything, it’s a wonder why he didn’t go any further.
Was it not to offend the actual subjects themselves? Or was he, once again, not too concerned with actually digging deep into these people’s inner-thoughts and ideas, and more about what sort of purpose they serve in today’s day and age?
Whatever choice it may be, what’s apparent is that Guggenheim could have done more here and really give us a compelling, if multidimensional look inside the mind of Malala. After all, the few moments where Guggenheim does seem to bring out the best within Malala, he gets some interesting tidbits of info that he could have actually ran wild. For one, he finds out that Malala, actually does miss her home and where she grow up, which is interesting considering that she’s not only banished from there, but will probably be killed on site, had she ever decided to actually walk back on that land.
Then, there’s also the dynamic she has with the rest of her family. In Malala’s case, she is the closest with her father, as they seem to be utterly in-sync with their thoughts and ideas for how a country should be ran and why. There’s clearly a love and adoration the two share for one another than cannot be stopped or toyed with. As for Malala’s relationship with her mother? Well, let’s just say it’s less loving and caring.
Of course, Malala and her mother love one another, but it doesn’t go to the certain lengths that it does with her and her father. In a way, her mother wants Malala to shut her mouth and not cause all of this trouble that they’ve already been in, which brings into consideration the question: Should Malala have opened her mouth? Or she should have stayed back and let all of the wrongdoings, continue to happen and live with it all until her dying day? The answer is obvious, but the question itself is an utterly compelling one that deserves to be brought up.
Then again, Guggenheim would have dug into it, either way. He would have just shown his appreciation for Malala and that would have been it. After all, that’s what he did and while there’s no harm or foul in doing so, it does make you wonder where the real, hard-hitting documentary is at?
Consensus: Despite its subject’s worthiness of being documented, He Named Me Malala is still a frustrating, if occasionally interesting look at the life of a woman who is already wiser beyond her years, but at the same time, is still very much a young kid, with a lot more going on in her life than just boys or school work.
4 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire