DVD Review: He Named Me Malala

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Malala Yousafzai is the focus of He Named Me Malala, a documentary currently available on DVD and Digital HD via Fox Home Entertainment. The now-18-year-old Yousafzai, a Pakistan native, became a global representative for female education rights in 2012 when the Taliban shot and nearly killed her. During the years leading up to the assassination attempt, Yousafzai had risen to prominence after blogging about the oppressive Taliban regime and their prevention of girls from receiving an education. Her efforts made her a target but, though nearly fatal, she recovered from her critical injuries. Yousafzai's activism has continued and in 2014 she became the youngest Nobel Prize winner (at just 17).

he named me malala (202x280).jpgGiven the subject matter, it seems inevitable that He Named Me Malala should be a worthwhile documentary. But director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) has put together a strangely lightweight, dispassionate film. Its stylish animated sequences are nice to look at, but ultimately rob Yousafzai's story of some of its power. An abundance of casual moments obviously intended to emphasize that she's a 'regular teen girl' are over-relied upon. A little clowning and mawkish sentimentality goes a long way, but some of these candid moments are unnecessary. Yousafzai never comes across as anything but likable, but the key here is that she is decidedly far from average. Guggenheim can't be faulted for painting a rounded portrait, but it is his subject's extraordinary courage that deserved a more intense focus.

That said, if the name Malala Yousafzai doesn't already resonate with you in some way, He Named Me Malala remains a must see. The film, running a very tidy 88 minutes, is a very accessible way to become acquainted with a very inspiring person. What it lacks in hard-hitting intensity (and even detailed information, for that matter), Malala makes up for simply in terms of spreading the word about this young woman's accomplishments.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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