Malala’s Story Reaches Millions
by Emma James on Tuesday, October 20th, 2015
On October 9th, 2012, Malala Yousafzai was on her way home from school when Taliban supporters stopped her school bus. After climbing inside, the man demanded to know which of the girls was Yousafzai. Observing the slight glances of her classmates, the man identified Malala and shot her in the head. Fortunately, the bullet did not do too much damage, entering just above her left eyebrow and exiting through her shoulder. While the bullet never penetrated her skull, it was less than an inch from being deadly. Not letting fear overcome her life, Malala, an eighteen-year-old student, is now an internationally renowned feminist, advocate for women’s rights to education, and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
While going to school is certainly not a crime in the U.S., the same can not be said in Mingora, Pakistan, where Malala lived at the time. Before the October encounter with the Taliban, her family had received many threats from Taliban followers, but Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father, had decided to allow his daughter to continue her education, no matter the risk. Due to Malala pursuing her education, she was threatened and ultimately attacked by the Taliban.
Taliban followers maintain that women have no right to education and that women like Malala are a threat to Taliban beliefs. They claim to be an Islamic Movement, striving to rid the Earth of any non Muslims or Muslims who do not follow their interpretation of Islam. They justify the deaths of countless people under Allah’s name, proclaiming that they are ridding the earth of sin. Like in any religion, there are many different interpretations of holy text, and even more ways of executing one’s practices. Of course the vast majority of
Muslims do not agree with Taliban beliefs, such as banning women from going to school and universities, being part of the public workforce, being examined by male doctors, or leaving the house when not accompanied by a man in the family or a close male friend. As stated in the Quran, “Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them” (Quran 4:34). Of course, this reading of the Quran is obviously not what true Muslims believe, but Taliban supporters look to such passages to justify their terrible deeds.
Since the Taliban attack, Malala has been busy at work, publishing an autobiography of her life not even a year after the shooting, entitled I am Malala. In 2014, she won the Nobel Peace Prize and the trailer for her new documentary, He Named Me Malala, was released on YouTube this past June.
The film was recently released in theatres on October 2, 2015, debuting at $56K weekend for four theaters, according to Deadline Hollywood. The film focuses on what constituted Malala’s normal life as a seventeen-year-old girl trying to do well in school while fighting for the justice of sixty-six million girls who are deprived of education.The trailer alone includes clips from news channels, footage from the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, and proof that Malala, while extraordinary, is indeed still a teenager herself.
Director Davis Guggenheim, focuses in part on Yousafzai’s namesake, most obviously through the title: He Named Me Malala. Ziauddin Yousafzai, her father, named her after the fable of a young woman who was martyred fighting for the people in Afghanistan. From birth he seemed to know Malala would fight for good, but according to Gary M. Kramer of Indiewire, “[Guggenheim] turns to Ziauddin for remarks about his daughter’s ideology…when the movie does engage with accusations that Yousafzai is a puppet of her father’s greater agenda, the suggestion goes largely unanswered.”
Neil Genzlinger, a columnist for The New York Times, also wrote somewhat of a scathing review on the film. He says that while “the film is primarily interested in spreading [Malala’s] message and seems pitched to a young audience…it is not at all interested in discussing broader issues raised by Ms. Yousafzai’s fame”. Unlike Genzlinger, other critics such as Joe Morgenstern, a film critic for the Wall Street Journal, and Michael O’Sullivan, a critic for the Washington Post, applaud Malala’s documentary and her overall campaign for women’s rights. Morgenstern said that the movie was “a surprisingly bright-spirited and profoundly moving portrait of Malala.” O’Sullivan agrees stating, “It is when Malala talks about changing the world that you actually might start to believe that this kid, who is still only 18, could someday make a difference.
Of course, you can decide for yourself whether the documentary is a hit or a miss, but either way you must concede that it is unarguably packed with heart. Regardless of the film’s reception, Malala Yousafzai is an incredible woman, and her life is more powerful than media can capture.
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