“He Named Me Malala” is a documentary that deserves to be seen. It’s contemporary history in the making, a story of great heroism on the part of a teenage girl from Afghanistan, Malala Yousafzai. Malala is the Afghan girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for writing a blog for the BBC about her fight to gain the right of Afghan girls to the education that is denied them under Taliban rule. In 2014, Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous work.

Malala’s father is a great political speaker in his own right. He named his daughter after an Afghan folk hero, Malalai of Maiwand, a girl who gave her life fighting for the rights of her people. However, as Malala herself says, “My father only gave me the name ‘Malala.’ He didn’t make me ‘Malala.’ I chose this fight and now I must continue.”

Director Davis Gugenhjeim comes to the project with relevant credentials. He directed “Waiting for Superman” and Al Gore’s award-winning film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Here he takes on the difficult task of making a story as it continues to develop. He enlisted composer Thomas Newman (son of film composer Alfred and cousin of Randy), veteran cinematographer Erich Roland, who also worked with him on “Waiting for Superman,” and editors Brad Fuller, Brian Johnson and Greg Finton (also part of the “Waiting” team).

In order to create the backstory of Malala’s early life, the team had artists Sean Buckelew and Jason Carpenter create soft, flowing earth-tone animated drawings to illustrate the peaceful days of Malala’s childhood in her beloved Swat Valley, which are interspersed with her eloquent speeches and candid sequences of her current life with her family in London. The film also covers recent turmoil in the Swat Valley after the Taliban imposed their oppressive laws on the residents. Malala’s tragedy is that she was forced, for her own safety, to leave the place that she loved, a place and a life that have now changed forever.

Malala has become a tremendous public speaker, even more inspiring and fiery after the miraculous recovery she made from being shot at from point-blank range. With the eyes of a child, now a teen, she is able to simplify the concepts underlying the chaos unfolding in her country and in other nations around the world. “There is a moment when you have to choose whether to be silent or to stand up”, she says, unknowingly paraphrasing our own Dr. Martin Luther King’s reflection: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”

“He Named Me Malala” will introduce you to someone who is certain to become a leading player in our contemporary history.

Malala and her father have started the Malala Fund (malala.org). The Malala Fund’s aim is to raise girls’ voices and ensure every girl throughout the world has access to 12 years of free, safe, quality primary and secondary education.

Rated PG-13. 87 minutes.

Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left. It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people. She now works as a talent manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Reach her at kwboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews, see https://kwboole.wordpress.com.

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