Prior to seeing He Named Me Malala I thought I had a pretty good grasp on Malala Yousafzai’s story. I knew that she was a Pakistani teen that had been shot by the Taliban for defending the rights of girls to an education, and I knew that she was the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She was charming on Colbert. Those seemed like good enough reasons to stand #withMalala (as they hashtag on the Internets), and I was right.
There is, of course, so much more. The Malala Fund, which officially champions the educational rights and opportunities of girls, is an amazing and inspiring organization, and Malala has more than proven herself a powerful speaker and passionate advocate; however, what I didn’t expect is that He Named Me Malala provides the audience with a very real look at the girl behind the headlines and, spoiler alert, she does not disappoint.
Malala is a loving daughter, playful sister and a loyal friend that embodies the grace and strength of her faith in the face of those that wish to devalue everything she believes in. It is easy to stand with Malala because her entire life is taking a stand. She was standing long before the hashtags.
I harbored certain assumptions about He Named Me Malala, namely that it would focus heavily on the proverbial preaching to the choir while making its appeal to those straddling the fence of like-mindedness. It is that, in the best way, but it is also the story of a father fighting his own battles and the fears that he carries just behind a shining badge of paternal pride.
It is a story of sacrifice and character, not only in regard to Malala, but of her parents and the choices they have made.
It is a tale of sibling bonds undercoated with a touch of classic rivalry and heavy with love and unwavering support.
There are tests and testaments of friendship, of fitting in and the awkward coming of age with its universal appeal, all while balancing the glare of the spotlight.
There are lessons and prayers that show the best of religion in its purest form, one of beauty and betterment despite the factions that claim it as their own and use it toward nefarious gains—something that has taken hold across all doctrines, creating a world that could benefit greatly from a breath of clarity. Unfortunately history has shown the depths of that reflection will likely be lost on those that need it most and the only takeaway they will find is in their own resolve rather than the empathy that is so badly needed.
And then there is the real point of the film, the fact that too many cultures deem girls and women as second-class citizens and attempt to justify their treatment as such. The Taliban is not alone in this respect—it is happening everywhere—the United States included. One need only look to Congress to see such ignorance in action. Granted, politicians tend to hide their disdain in legislation and embarrassing attempts to distance themselves from the dangerous ramifications thereof, but it is unacceptable all the same.
This is why it is important to stand #withMalala, and why Dads 4 Change is honored to do so. To stand with Malala is to stand for girls and women everywhere. It is to stand for a brighter future for all of us.
He Named Me Malala is empowering and entertaining, providing hope and challenging apathy through expanded horizons and better views from every angle. It is a film worth seeing, and it’s okay to sit for that.
He Named Me Malala opens October 2nd in New York and Los Angeles, and elsewhere on October 9th. Follow on Twitter and Facebook and please share your support by using the #withMalala and #HeNamedMeMalala hashtags, respectively.
Whit Honea is the co-founder of Dads 4 Change, the Social Media Director and Community Manager of Dad 2.0 Summit as well as a Senior Account Executive at the conference’s parent company: XY Media Group. Deemed “the activist dad” by UpWorthy (and one of the “funniest dads on Twitter” by Mashable), he is a regular contributor to The Modern Dads Podcast and the author of The Parents’ Phrase Book—a family guide to empathy.