30th October, 2015


Overwhelming reaction to documentary from audience of 700 dignitaries, educators, university students and Youth Ambassadors

Abu Dhabi, October 29, 2015:  Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai appeared on stage to a standing ovation at the UAE premiere of the documentary He Named Me Malala.

Malala surprised the 700-strong audience, comprising dignitaries, VIP guests, educators and university students, by appearing on stage at Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace after the closing credits to take part in a conversation covering how the film was conceived.

Malala was joined by her father Ziauddin, director Davis Guggenheim, film producers Walter Parkes and Laurie Macdonald and Image Nation Abu Dhabi’s CEO Michael Garin. Four young people from the Crown Prince Court Abu Dhabi’s Youth Ambassadors programme were also invited to join the conversation, and asked Malala questions about her journey as well advice on how young people can help to affect change.

Malala said: “This is not just a film, it’s a movement. Every girl deserves the right to go to school and I hope this will raise awareness about the mission for every child to get their basic human right of education. Refugee children in Syria and Iraq: we have ignored them for too long – we need to highlight the issue for world leaders so we do not see a generation lost.”

The audience reaction to He Named Me Malala – an intimate portrait of Malala, who was targeted by the Taliban and severely wounded by a gunshot when returning home on a bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley – was in line with the positive responses at premieres around the world; the film received standing ovations at two separate screenings in the US.

The premiere helped build anticipation for the UAE and Middle Eastern cinematic release of the film on Thursday, November 5. The film is being released by by Empire International (in the region) Fox Searchlight Pictures, in association with Image Nation Abu Dhabi, Participant Media and National Geographic Channel. The documentary was produced by Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald under their long-term partnership with Image Nation, and also produced by director Davis Guggenheim.

The partners behind the film believe that He Named Malala can inspire meaningful change in the area of girls’ education and supports the UAE’s commitment to promoting women’s human rights, women’s empowerment, and gender equality around the world.

Mohammed Al Mubarak, Chairman of Image Nation said: “We are proud that Image Nation is creating films that help build the film industry in the region, enabling local talent to work alongside some of the best names in the business. But we are especially proud that our documentary films can make a difference for important social issues around the world.

“He Named Me Malala is so much more than just a film. We’re hoping this will inspire people in the UAE and across the wider region to actively supporting the movement for better education equality on a global scale.”

Mr Guggenheim said: “The UAE has a very long tradition of supporting women’s equality, and it is why we like working with partners like Image Nation.”

Alongside the release of He Named Me Malala, Image Nation and Middle Eastern distributors Empire International, have launched a schools outreach campaign, offering discounted group screenings of the film and providing classroom discussion packs and educational materials. In support of this campaign, many people in the audience at the premiere were promising young students.

Shoag Eissa, one of the Youth Ambassadors who took the stage to ask Malala a question at the premiere, said: “The ambassador’s programme is one of the most inspiring, interesting and empowering programmes done in the UAE. For those who have been involved in the programme, it has changed their personality. Today was a real highlight – it was an incredible to meet Malala and ask her a question in front of all the people at such an event.”

Mario Jr Haddad, Vice President of Empire International said: “We were overwhelmed with the incredible reception the film received on its debut in the UAE. We are proud to be working on such a worthwhile project, and we hope cinema-goers across the Middle East will share our enthusiasm for the film and everything it stands for.”

The film will be screened at selected theatres across the UAE and the Middle East from November 5.