In what was another UAE coup last week, arguably the most influential teenager in the world, 18-year old Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, visited the capital's Emirates Palace. Alongside father Ziauddin and director Davis Guggenheim, she presented her Image Nation Abu Dhabi funded documentary - He Named Me Malala - to regional press.
The story of how this remarkable young woman established herself as a lauded children's right to education advocate- consequently targeted by the Taliban in her native Swat Valley, Pakistan; emerging from an attempt on her life aged 15, and going on to address world leaders and the UN to further her cause is already the subject of memoir I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban. He Named Me Malala draws on similar themes, although focuses more on the intensely close relationship Malala and her father share.
"This is not a journalistic movie," said Guggenheim at a question and answer session after the film had been screened. "It is a personal movie about a girl and her father.I wasn't looking to make a broad geopolitical movie."
It is perhaps the deliberate lack of discourse in the piece, which allows Malala's compassion, intelligence and unbreakable family ties to shine through, that makes it more charming than a straight condemnation of the Taliban-type work would have been. Through the use of animation to illustrate past events, an almost whimsical world is created - essential at times when dealing with occasionally grave subject matter.
Having said that Malala isn't completely happy with the finished article.
"I did not like that there was too much time for my brothers!" she said through a laugh, referring to the interviews to camera her younger brothers Khushal and Atal gave. "They were allowed to say anything!
"I love the animation, though."
"This film is the reality of our lives," said Malala's father. "We were strangers," he said pointing at Guggenheim. "He is from LA, we are from Pakistan. It looked difficult when we started, but over the filming we became close."
"Making this movie has been one of the greatest privileges of my life," replied Guggenheim. "I have learnt so much about this part of the world through their eyes."
The overwhelming emotion that comes through Malala throughout her film is a longing to return to Pakistan. Having been evacuated to Birmingham in the United Kingdom after the attempt on her life three years ago, subsequent threats have rendered even a visit impossible.
As is the case with anything in Malala's life, however, her determination will be enough to carry her home.
"I haven't seen my country and I dream to go back," she said. "I want to continue campaigning there and help every child get an education...One day I will go back."
By David Light
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