Malala Yousafzai: The Nobel Peace Prize winner’s movie connection

Education activist Malala Yousafzai is one of two winners of this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
(Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)

Pakistani-born education activist Malala Yousafzai, who on Friday was announced as one of two winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, has had plenty of media exposure over the past few years. She’s been the subject of numerous broadcast features, written a bestselling memoir and been featured on the cover of Time magazine.

There’s been plenty for her and outlets to cover--Yousafzai was fighting a years-long battle for greater educational opportunities for young women, and was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for her activism.

It turns out the 17-year-old has also caught the attention of a number of documentary filmmakers--including Oscar-winner Davis Guggenheim.


Guggenheim took the top prize in 2006 for his environmental jeremiad “An Inconvenient Truth” and turned his attention to the subject of education in this country with his follow-up, “Waiting for Superman.”

Over the past 18 months or so, he has been in production on a movie about Yousafzai. Parkes-McDonald, the Hollywood production company behind the similarly oriented “The Kite Runner,” is producing the film, and nonprofit gurus Participant Media and the Abu Dhabi film fund Image Nation are among the backers.

We’re awaiting the latest on the project from filmmakers in light of the win, but at last check-in Guggenheim was shooting footage of the young activist, who now lives in Britain.

Yousafzai, who shared the prize with Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi, was also the subject of “Malala: A Girl From Paradise,” an indie project, and a documentary featurette called “Class Dismissed” by Adam Ellick that was produced by the New York Times.

The subject of girl advocacy has been in the cinema ether. Yousafzai’s fight for the rights and freedoms of girls in repressive countries has also found expression in acclaimed movies about other subjects. In 2012 the Saudi Arabian “Wadjda” became the first movie shot entirely in Saudi Arabia--and the first movie ever to be directed by a Saudi Arabian woman, Haifaa al-Mansour.

“Wadjda” tells the story of a free-spirited girl in a repressive country who wants to engage in the quiet protest of buying a bike. The message resonated: The film was the first-ever movie submitted by Saudi Arabia for Oscar consideration and received a BAFTA nomination for foreign film.