'They Thought That the Bullets Would Silence Us': New Film Tells Malala's Story

by Traci G. Lee /  / Updated 
Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai sits with family members, from left, brother Atal, mother Tor Pekai and father Ziauddin, on Aug. 18, 2014, at United Nations headquarters in New York before meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. STAN HONDA / AFP - Getty Images file

Three years after she was shot in the head, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai's story will play in theaters across the country in a new documentary that opens Friday nationwide.

"He Named Me Malala" tells the story of Yousafzai's fight for girls' education in Pakistan's Swat Valley, where she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman while boarding a school bus on October 9, 2012. Yousafzai, who was 15 at the time, survived the assassination attempt and continued her campaign for girls' education globally alongside her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai.

"A lot of people know Malala as the girl who was shot on her school bus and then some people recently know her as the girl who won the Nobel Peace Prize. But what they don't know is that it's this very rich story," Davis Guggenheim, the film's director, said in an interview with NBC's Last Call with Carson Daly Tuesday night. "She was named after this girl who spoke out to rally the Afghanis to beat the British 100 years ago in a war and was killed for speaking out. And Malala herself speaks out and is almost killed for speaking out."

Image: Malala poses with girls for a picture at a school for Syrian refugee girls
Malala Yousafzai, center, poses with girls for a picture at a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley on July 12. The Malala Fund, a non-profit organisation that supports local education projects, paid for the school in the Bekaa Valley, close to the Syrian border.JAMAL SAIDI / Reuters

The documentary traces Yousafzai's journey from the Swat Valley to some of the world's largest stages. In 2014, Yousafzai became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17.

"The Tablian who wanted to snuff out her voice actually did the opposite and this sort of icon is born," Guggenheim said.

"He Named Me Malala" made its debut in the U.S. at the Telluride Film Festival last month, and opened in select theaters on October 2 ahead of its nationwide release on October 9--two days ahead of the International Day of the Girl Child, which "recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world."

"Malala Yousafzai is one of my personal heroes—and proof that one person can change the world," Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, said in a Facebook post Wednesday. "The film goes into wide release this weekend ahead of the International ‪#‎DayOfTheGirl‬, and I can't think of a better example of how one girl's voice can empower millions."

The documentary has also received praise and endorsements online from celebrities such as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson and Emmy-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson.