I purchased my movie ticket from the 20-something with a man-bun at the ticket booth.
“Enjoy your movie,” he says.
I descended into the glittering bowels of the Ritz at The Bourse, a theatre on 4th street near Old City. I could tell I was at one of “those” places by glancing at the titles of the films that were being shown tonight. They were all documentaries or foreign films.
There were about 18 of us in the 150-seat auditorium I was in. Among us were two guys who were way too straight to sit right next to each other (they left a seat in between,) even though they came together. A pair of women whom I’d met earlier in the day at work were there also. I avoided interacting with them solely because I’m-not-at-work-right-now-so-I-don’t-know-you-ma’am. Another woman had a fresh cup of Starbucks in her cup holder. One man was dressed like he invented the hippie movement. Yup, definitely one of “those” places.
We were all here for one reason, to see the inspiring story of a young girl. Her name is Malala Yousafzai.
“It is better to live like a lion for one day, than to live like a slave for 100 years.”
He Named Me Malala opens up to rolling credits and a man’s voice asking Malala to tell the story that depicts the origin of her name. In the story, a young girl witnesses her disheartened people being destroyed in battle, so she climbs atop a hill and raises her voice. “It is better to live like a lion for one day, than to live like a slave for 100 years,” she says. Her people become empowered through her words, and the tides of the battle begin to turn. However, Malala is shot and killed on that same battlefield. This story sets the tone of what is one of the most inspiring stories of bravery and courage in our lifetime.
For those of you who may not know Malala’s story; watch the news, and then go see this film. Malala Yousafzi was born and raised in Swat Valley, Pakistan. As a young girl, she received high marks in school and lived a normal, happy life with her family. But her region’s peace was not to last. The Taliban moved into the valley in the late 90’s and while they were non-violent in the beginning, things changed in the early 2000’s.
Taliban forces slowly but surely began to clash with local authorities as well as anyone who resisted their ideology. Disappearances, public executions and fear-mongering were the Taliban’s greatest weapons. Soon enough, they turned their attention towards the schools, and more importantly, who was allowed to attend them.
The order was issued that no girl was allowed to attend school. If they chose to do so, they would face consequences. As an extra measure, the Taliban forces bombed and burned the local schools to the ground.
Malala’s father was approached by an international reporter from BBC News, and Malala began to anonymously submit her story to be reported across the world. Eventually, she and her father decided to do more. Malala began to appear publicly and spoke openly against the Taliban and the need and right to education for all children, particularly for girls.
“We were refugees in our own country,” says Malala at one point in the film.
“We were refugees in our own country.”
On October 9, 2012, Malala’s school bus was stopped by a Taliban soldier. He boarded the bus, asked her name, and then shot her in the head.
Miraculously, Malala survived. When she was stable, she flown to Birmingham, England to receive further treatment. Malala did more than recover; she has continued to be a voice for millions of girls all over the world. In 2014 she won the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest to have been awarded this prize.
The film is beautifully crafted. It is interlaced with beautiful watercolor animation and pictures from Malala’s childhood. We are allowed a view into her new life in Birmingham through a more personal window. She fights and bickers with her brothers, she even teaches dad how to use Twitter!
We also see more somber moments. Her mother sorely misses their home country. At one point her mother says that she looked at the moon and cried, because it is the only thing that hasn’t changed since the family left Pakistan. The relationship between Malala and her father is indeed a special one. Her father describes it as “…one soul in two different bodies.” When she came out of her coma, her first question was, “Where is my father?” She was sure he had been targeted and killed.
What you can learn from her story is not what took place after she recovered. It isn’t the global publicity, awards, interviews and high-profile meetings. It is how she lived her life before no one knew her story. It is how she stood up for what was right in the face of literal certain death.
Are you so brave? Am I?
Not once did Malala ever speak against her attackers in any of her interviews. She has forgiven them. In one interview she states, “If I met them with violence, I would be no better than them.”
Please, go see this film. It really celebrates a wonderful young woman with enormous potential to change and inspire.
“It is so hard to get things done in this world…but you have to continue.” -Malala Yousafzai