Co-winner of Nobel Prize for Peace, Malala Yousafzai, addresses youth and warns of the risk of a ‘lost generation’ in Syria during the exclusive premiere screening of 'He Named Me Malala' in Abu Dhabi. James De Vile provides a glimpse into the much-awaited documentary
Students, teachers and other invitees from the United Arab Emirates packed the grand auditorium at Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace Hotel for an exclusive premiere screening of He Named Me Malala, the documentary-cum-animated film about the life, and near-death, of Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.
Jointly produced by Image Nation Abu Dhabi, Fox Searchlight Pictures and National Geographic, the film follows the now 18-year-old as she and her family settle in to a new life in the UK, interspersing fly-on-the-wall footage and family interviews with hand-drawn animation that tells Malala’s story, from her birth up until the attempt on her life in 2012.
He Named Me Malala also bears witness to the family’s ongoing issues, particularly her mother’s struggle to adapt to a Western life. It also documents Malala’s hopes to one day see her family home in the Swat Valley of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province again, despite a stated vow from the Taliban to target her should she ever attempt to return.
Do not think [because] you are still young, you’re still a teenager, your ideas don’t matter
Above all, the film explores Malala’s relationship with her father – educational activist, schoolteacher and the ‘He’ in the film’s title, Ziauddin Yousafzai. After the screening, the pair received a standing ovation as they took to the stage, accompanied by the film’s director, Davis Guggenheim.
Malala used the opportunity to speak directly to the auditorium’s predominantly youthful audience, reminding them that age is not a barrier to achievement.
“Do not think [because] you are still young, you’re still a teenager, your ideas don’t matter,” she said. "When I was writing the diary, the BBC blog, while I was participating in the documentaries and interviews speaking out for education, I was only 11. It’s your voice that really matters. It does not depend on your age, your gender, anything.”
The film depicts the destruction of thousands of Pakistan’s schools by the Taliban in their efforts to eradicate female education. While the reconstruction of these schools is now under way, Malala made a point to remind the audience of how damaging the conflict in the Middle East continues to be to children’s education, and how those displaced from Syria and Iraq currently have no access to this basic human right.
“We have ignored them for a very long time,” she cautioned. “Now it is time to help Syrian refugee children so that they do not become a generation lost.”
He Named Me Malala is scheduled for screening across cinemas in the UAE starting November 5.