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Movie Review

'Malala' Is Permanently Valuable Art


He Named Me Malala is a documentary made remarkable mostly by the personality of the Pakistani girl who won the Nobel Peace Prize at age 17, and survived a Taliban murder attempt with no more than slight impairments of her eyesight and hearing and a slightly crooked smile. And the movie's highly unusual use of animation not only doesn't rob it of realism, but elevates it almost to the level of legend and folklore.

Malala Yousafzai comes across as a surprisingly typical movie teenager, fond of bright-colored cloths and pictures of Brad Pitt and other young people's heartthrobs, with an almost sugary home life tha tis maybe the only really weak spot in the movie. She doesn't seem to regard herself as a heroine and is more than generous about her father, who obviously was an enormous influence on her and all but glows with justifiable pride over his daughter. Her younger brother doesn't seem to understand what all the fuss is about, which adds a welcome touch of humor to one of the most attractive pictures of family life I've seen on the screen for a long time.

The animation is in no way cartoonish. It looks to me like chalk drawings, with no great effort at realism and a lot of mood, expanding the subject matter to a more generalized level, not abstract but individualized, as if representing whole societies and worlds, while the photographs are very specific individuals, not types.

The inevitable political-social points are never preached and only occasionally stated, always in character. If He Named Me Malala is propaganda, it is propaganda raised to the level of permanently valuable art.