Fox Searchlight Pictures has released the first clip from ‘He Named Me Malala’, Davis Guggenheim’s highly-anticipated documentary charting the story of Nobel Peace Prize-winning Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai.
In the clip, Malala talks about the relationship with her parents, in particular her beloved father Ziauddin Yousafzai, an “extraordinary” man who played a pivotal role in empowering her to greatness.
The film is directed by the acclaimed Davis Guggenheim, the man behind documentaries such as ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and ‘Waiting for Superman’.
The basis for the film’s title is the name of a 19th century Afghan heroine chosen by Ziauddin to name his first born child.
According to Pashtun tradition, Malalai of Maiwand spurred her countrymen to victory against British troops in 1880, taking to the battlefield to rally a demoralised Afghan force with a verse about martyrdom.
She was later struck down and killed.
“You named her after a girl who spoke out and was killed. It’s almost as if you said she’d be different,” director Davis Guggenheim tells Yousafzai’s father, Ziauddin, in the film.
“You’re right,” he replies.
Filmed over 18 months, the intimate portrait shows a teenager more at ease on the world stage – speaking at U.N. headquarters in New York – or addressing students in Syrian refugee camps than with classmates in her new school in Birmingham where she now lives after leaving Pakistan in the wake of the Taliban attack which left her seriously injured.
“In this new school, it’s hard,” she says, admitting a lack of shared experiences with the other girls.
While much is known about the advocacy work carried out by Yousafzai – who was targeted for calling for girls to go to school – the documentary lifts the lid on her family life in Birmingham with much humour generated by her two brothers.
“She’s a little bit naughty,” says Yousafzai’s youngest brother, who she introduces as “a good boy” in contrast to her other brother who she calls “the laziest one”.
She giggles when asked if she would ever ask a boy on a date.
Using archive footage and voice recordings of Islamist leader Fazlullah, the documentary captures the steady crackdown on freedoms in Yousafzai’s native Swat Valley, including schools destroyed by bombs and music CDs burned.
Encouraged by her teacher father, Yousafzai began blogging for the BBC at the age of 11. Writing anonymously, she described life under the harsh edicts of the Taliban, bombed-out schools, executions under the cover of dark and girls’ education limited to reading the Koran.
She later made public appearances in Swat Valley, calling for girls’ right to an education.
“My father and my mother both inspired me to believe in myself. In a society where women’s rights are not respected, my parents gave me examples,” Yousafzai said at a screening of the documentary in Washington DC this week.
“There’s a moment where you have to choose to be silent or to stand up,” she says in the film. “My father only gave me the name Malala, he didn’t make me Malala. I chose this life and now I must continue it.”
Ziauddin Yousafzai said the film was not the story of one family but millions suffering because of war and conflict, adding that millions of Syrian children had been deprived of an education.
“When you meet these girls, their passion and taste for education it is remarkable. They want to learn,” he said in Washington.
“In the global south, in developing countries, most of the children fight every day to get educated. Many families have sold their whole property – their cows, their farm and everything to get their children educated.”
Yousafzai’s Malala Fund, which supports girls’ secondary education, wants the film to be shown in schools to inspire students to stand against bullying, racism and human rights violations.
The movie will be screened as part of the London Film Festival next month and is in UK cinemas 6 November.