I first heard about Malala by reading her blogs, originally published as anonymous, through my friends at UNICEF in 2010. I remember when she brazenly decided to reveal her identity to give a voice and a face to the countless Afghan girls, who were risking execution to attend school. I vividly recall the day I turned on the television in 2012 and learned that this brave 15 year old had been shot in the head on her school bus and was clinging to life. I told my two oldest daughters about her that day and we talked about the fact that millions of little girls like them all across the world could not even go to school simply because they were female. I don’t know how much sunk in that day, or how much has since, but Malala has remained in important story in my house of little girls.
And so it was nothing short of awesome to meet Malala, the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, with my 9-year-old daughter Loulie over the summer and again before her film premiere with my colleague Ginger last week. I have had the opportunity to see firsthand the devotion between Malala and her father Zeek and the tremendous impact that this formidable team is making on the world.
“He Named Me Malala” is a powerful documentary about a girl who had the courage to stand up when no one else would and in doing so risked her own life for the chance to make a difference in the lives of others.
There are so many lessons Malala has taught us already in her young life. In interviews she always says that she does not feel anger towards the people who shot her and she never has. As her father says in the documentary, “ it was not a man that shot Malala, it was an ideology”.
Malala is shy by nature. She doesn’t want to be the center of attention, but would rather use her spotlight to shine it on other girls who have equally harrowing stories but lack the platform or international media attention required to share their stories with the broader world. The night of her premiere, Malala made sure to incorporate almost a dozen young women from places such as Syria and Kenya; girls who as a result of their refusal to be silenced, have been raped and brutalized. Yet, in a room that could have been filled with despair and tragedy, there was a tremendous sense of hope, forgiveness and the capacity for change. You can’t help but feel when you are with Malala that you are in the presence of someone otherworldly. A girl whose name in years to come will become as familiar to others as Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa or Gandhi .
I was reminded yet again of the incredible power of film to educate when I saw the documentary Frame by Frame yesterday at The Aspen Film Festival. The film focuses on Afghan journalists and their role in getting Afghan women’s stories into the national spotlight.
In the words of Massoud, the Pulitzer Prize winning Afghan photographer, whose story is highlighted in the documentary, “We are all part of one living body and when one part feels pain the whole body should know”.
It is with great pride that we announce that The Greenwich International Film Festival will focus it’s 2016 year on highlighting artists, panels, films and other non profits that bring awareness to human rights issues we are facing at home and abroad. Film provides a tremendous medium for storytelling and we are thrilled that the Greenwich International Film Festival will be able to provide a platform for these stories to be heard.