MALALA YOUSAFZAI is a Pakistani teenager who, three years ago, was shot in the face by the Taliban for speaking out against their regime and demanding education for girls. She survived, continued her activism, and won the Nobel Peace Prize.
That much we already know. What most of us don't know is how ordinary Malala is. In the documentary He Named Me Malala, we're given access to a different Malala than we saw in the news—one who's charming in her normalcy as she teases her little brothers, googles pictures of Brad Pitt, and frets about her grades. Like, it's not enough that she's a world-famous activist—she's also a very likable person.
Malala opens with an animated retelling of the tale of Malalai, an Afghan folk hero who rebelled against British invaders and was shot and killed. Malala Yousafzai's father gave Malala her name, we learn, on purpose. An educator an activist in his own right, he was a vocal opponent of the Taliban when they showed up in their town—and the one who connected a then 12-year-old Malala to BBC bloggers. While Malala's clearly independently passionate about her cause, she just as clearly was pointed in that direction pretty much from birth.
That doesn't make her story any less striking, and learning about her history—and how she isn't just some random schoolgirl who spoke out—is makes Malala so interesting. She and her dad were successful at precisely what they were trying to do, which was make Malala a voice for girls. (As for the attempt on her life... well, they really didn't think the Taliban would go after kids.)
He Named Me Malala has more to recommend it—its documentary footage is supplemented with gorgeous animation, and the film ends up being surprisingly suspenseful—but more than anything, it's inspiring. Malala is just your average Pakistani teenager living in exile in England after surviving an assassination attempt for speaking out against the Taliban, and she's a delight to spend two hours with.