|Profile in courage: Malala Yousafzai in He Named Me Malala|
The word "inspirational" is highly overused. It's come to denote an entire sub-genre of books and movies, mostly devoted to Christian themes or underdog sports stories.
But for real-life inspiration of jaw-dropping proportions, look no further than Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani schoolgirl who spoke out for the rights of girls to be educated, nearly paid with her life when she was shot in the face by the Taliban, and survived, to continue her work on behalf of women's rights around the globe.
In 2014, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace—at age seventeen.
The amazing story-so-far of this incredibly poised young woman and her family is told in the moving, informative documentary, He Named Me Malala. Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) chooses this title for a good reason: the "He" refers to Malala's father, schoolteacher and activist Ziauddin Yousafzai, who is revealed to be an influence and inspiration for his daughter. But as Malala points out in the film, "He named me Malala, but he didn't make me Malala." Guggenheim's film is the fascinating story of Malala inventing herself.
Let's start with that name. In a voice-over, accompanied by lovely, animated pastel images (which are used throughout the film), Malala tells the story of her namesake, a legendary 19th Century heroine from Afghanistan called Malalai. When the Afghani troops were in flight from invading British forces, Malalai climbed a hill above the battlefield and rallied the troops, crying "It's better to live one day as a lion than spend the rest of your life as a slave." (Read more)
Now an international advocate for girls' rights to an education, we see Malala in Kenya, talking to schoolgirls in a remote village classroom. When she asks what they are studying toward, every student says she wants to be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher. Malala's battlefield is the classroom, and this is how she wins her war—one girl at a time.