Magazine article Screen International

'He Named Me Malala' Producers Talk Switching from Narrative to Documentary

Magazine article Screen International

'He Named Me Malala' Producers Talk Switching from Narrative to Documentary

Article excerpt

When former DreamWorks' studio heads Walter Parkes and Laurie Macdonald first secured the rights to Malala Yousafzai's autobiography He Named Me Malala at pre-publication stage, their intention was to adapt it into a narrative feature.

They had the approval of the Yousafzai family to take that approach. But when the pair flew to the UK to meet the family in Birmingham - where they had relocated six months earlier as Malala recuperated from a Taliban gun attack in Pakistan's Swat Valley - it became clear she should be the star of her own story.

"I don't think it hit us until the next day just how extraordinary Malala was," says Parkes, who along with his wife ran DreamWorks' motion-picture division for 14 years.

Having leftthe studio to strike out on their own as independent producers, Parkes and Macdonald had launched a $10m development fund in 2010 with Image Nation Abu Dhabi, which was on board to finance a Malala biopic.

Before discussing their change of heart with Image Nation and the Yousafzais, namely to chronicle in documentary form Malala's journey from outspoken local advocate for girls' education to Nobel Peace Prize winner, Parkes and MacDonald enlisted Davis Guggenheim, the documentary maker behind An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting For Superman. He travelled to the UK to win over the family.

"He was the key," says MacDonald of convincing the Yousafzais. "He makes you feel safe, and he only makes documentaries about subjects that he loves as opposed to negative underbelly ones. …

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