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SYNOPSIS: When the Taliban shot Pakistani school girl, Malala Yousafzai, for speaking out on girls' education, they unwittingly triggered a global backlash and strengthened Malala's resolve to campaign for education of girls and women. Her story is told from her own point of view (and based on her book, I Am Malala) and includes her acceptance of the Nobel Peace prize and her speech to the United Nations.

Review by Louise Keller:
One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world, says Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person to ever be awarded the Nobel Peace prize. The world knows Malala's story: the Pakistani teenager was shot by the Taliban - for defending women's rights to be educated. Girls and women of all ages. Two-times Academy award winning director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman) tells Malala's moving story with a gentleness that counters its harsh elements, allowing its inspirational message to filter through unfettered.

Guggenheim effectively uses animation on pastel drawings to depict past events and the historic reference of the opening sequence, that tells of the 19th century folk heroine Malalai who was responsible for the Afghan victory against Britain. But there is another meaning for the name, her father tells: it means bravery. There is no doubting the bravery of this teenager who chooses not to talk about the suffering she endured when shot on a school bus by the Taliban and received life threatening injuries. Who shot her? It was an ideology that shot Malala, says her father. He is clearly the source of Malala's inspiration, having always been outspoken from the early days when he opened a school, rebelling against tradition. Theirs is a close bond.

Guggenheim meshes archival news footage, photographs and interviews to tell Malala's story - her childhood, family relationships and new life in Birmingham, where she was taken for emergency surgery after the shooting. She misses her home in Swat Valley (the only thing that is the same is the moon), but the Taliban has declared it will kill her if she returns.

Outwardly Malala's life may look complex as she mingles with rock stars, presidents and uses her media profile to help others in Kenya, Nigeria and the Syrian/Jordan border. But there is a simplicity too and a maturity beyond her years. Watching the family playing cards or talking about each other (she is addicted to books, says her younger brother) reveals a normal, yet exceptional young woman. Never give up; better to die than remain silent are the positive messages she delivers. Malala's speech at the United Nations is unforgettable: the eloquence of her words and simple delivery overtly moving.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Davis Guggenheim is good at 'cause' films (eg the Cannes-crowned The Inconvenient Truth) and what better 'cause' than Malala, or rather HER cause, the education of girls and women, in the face of deadly opposition from the Taliban. She says in this doco that she has never felt anger towards the Taliban for shooting her in the head. The Taliban, on the other hand, are very angry indeed, as they were when they ordered her killed; that order is still in place if she ever ventures back to Pakistan. If this contrast isn't enough, there is the Nobel Peace Prize and an invitation to address the UN General Assembly. But Malala is modest enough to handle these accolades (and others) with the maturity which gives her youth so much traction.

The film's title is a reference to her father's devotion and life long belief in his daughter, with whom he shares a strong bond. He named her Malala in honour of a young woman from history who motivated fearful troops of Afghans to victory over the English.

If Malala seems to have sprung fully formed from the Swat valley, it is only because she enjoyed the relative freedom of her family's life style and developed her sense of self as well as her knowledge of the world.

The Taliban will never understand why this film was made, why it is being seen around the world, why it shows their inhumanity and why Malala's influence, resolve and power is spreading. As she so poignantly says, you can't shoot an idea.

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(US, 2015)

CAST: Malala Yousafzai, Ziauddin Yousafzai, Mobin Khan

PRODUCER: Davis Guggenheim, Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes

DIRECTOR: Davis Guggenheim


EDITOR: Greg Finton, Brad Fuller, Brian Johnson

MUSIC: Thomas Newman


RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 12, 2015

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