Coming this Friday, Oct. 9th, Oscar winning documentarian Davis Guggenheim’s new film, “He Named Me Malala,” is set to release in select cities across the country.
The film follows the journey of Pulitzer Prize winner Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who at the young age of 15, was shot and severely wounded by the Taliban for advocating for girls’ education. After months of reconstructive surgeries and rehabilitation, Malala returned to the public eye as a leading activist for women’s education in her home country of Pakistan and throughout the world.
Guggenheim, renowned director of “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Waiting for ‘Superman,'” followed Malala and her family for 18 months, piecing together how such an ordinary girl came to be a worldwide figurehead of a major human rights issue.
The film is an intimate collection of stories and images illustrating Malala’s life, from her early life as a child to present day. Interestingly, Guggenheim chose to abandon the typical linear form of filmmaking by creating a web of memories and recollections woven together with the family’s modern day life.
The linear story line, as Guggenheim mentions, was very much intentional. He says, “If you’re building towards Malala’s choice to step on camera and speak out against these tyrants… that needs to be at the end, and chronologically, it wasn’t at the end.”
So, when referencing the past, Guggenheim applied artistic representations and images to narrate the story, giving the audience a visual image to put to Malala’s unique experiences.
Guggenheim says, “The idea is how do I tell the story from the point of view of a girl and the way she was describing it had this, sort of, storybook. Almost like she was closing her eyes at night and remembering it.” And that’s just it: Malala was only 15 at the time of her attack; a young girl whose courage and determination transcends well beyond her years.
Although Guggenheim touches upon many different aspects of Malala’s life and experiences, he focuses on the underlying reason that inspired him to make the film: her unwavering and unrivaled courage.
He chose to let her narrate the story, to take it where she led it. “These sort of very thoughtful conversations in the process of sort of letting the character tell their own story as opposed to a filmmaker putting their stamp on things,” said Guggenheim.
By doing so, the audience gains insight into the character; we see Malala as a smart, ordinary girl who, with the guidance and love of her father, did an unimaginably brave thing in the face of inconceivable danger.
Critics of the movie have called the film “soft” and “overly sentimental,” and although that was not Guggenheim’s intention, he did intend on sharing the amazing story of the people who inspired him.
“It’s too easy for us to make our heroes untouchable and put them on a pedestal; well I could never be like her,” said Guggenheim. “Truth is she is just an ordinary girl who became famous because she was brave and she made an extraordinary choice in her life to speak out.”