Three new films that provide rich terrain for role modeling and family discussion are in theaters now (or about to open).Each tells a true story of remarkable courage. Here’s a heads up about each, and some notes on what to talk about afterwards.
Our top choice is He Named Me Malala, Davis Guggenheim’s documentary about the 18 year-old Nobel Prize winner. The film follows Malala in her daily life – her siblings, school and crushes – and gives historical and global context to her campaign to improve girls’ education worldwide. There is much to parse out in this film, including an interesting glimpse of her father/daughter dynamic, and topics abound for discussion: what makes a leader? how does Malala being shot by the Taliban change her destiny? why shouldn’t girls have the same educational opportunities as boys? Kids will no doubt be impressed with Malala’s remarkable conviction and how it gives her the power to confront world leaders and speak her truth.
Here is our story about the film to which Common Sense Media has given 5 stars and The Seal. It’s exciting to see how the film has sparked a local effort to empower girls. And kids and teachers can get involved with Students Stand With Malala, the activist’s organization geared towards the global effort.
We also like Everest, an IMAX/3D production, directed by Baltasar Kormákur, based on the true story of two expeditions who journeyed to the top of the tallest mountain the world. Common Sense gave this film The Seal and 4 stars. True adventure fans should be sure to read Jon Krakauer’s stunning Into Thin Air, which tells part of this famous tale. Krakauer is not a supporter of Everest, which makes for an interesting discussion about different perspectives on a single event and can lead to debate about who gets to to tell the story. Other points for reflection include thinking about what it is like to prepare for a quest like climbing Everest, and having kids imagine what they might do when such an adventure goes awry. How do life and death situations challenge our moral boundaries? And, how does character come to the surface when stakes are raised?
For teaching compassion, you can’t top a remarkable documentary, A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story, that is playing now in Los Angeles. Lizzie was born with unusual physical deformities and became an easy target for bullies. Her fight back is the best example of resiliency that we can think of. Take a look at the trailer so you can prepare your family for how Lizzie looks, but we promise you will fall in love with her.
Here is the Common Sense review, with 4 stars and The Seal. This powerful film accesses key topics for middle and high school, from bullying and body image to compassion and empathy. Here is a nice summary of some of the many insights to be gained from this film.