MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A., Dir. Stephen Loveridge, UK/USA/Sri Lanka, 2018, 96 mins, English and Tamil with English subtitles
Pulling from an ample supply of personal video recordings made by M.I.A. over the past 22 years, Steven Loveridge has made a politically energised, charismatic portrait of the uncompromising Hounslow born, Sri-Lankan refugee rapper, artist and activist, who shot to fame in the UK following the release of ‘Paper Planes’ (2008) from her second studio album Kala (2007).
Born Mathangi ‘Maya’ Arulpragasam into a militantly engaged family – M.I.A.’s father founded the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS), a resistance group affiliated with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka – this new portrait shows how tracks such as ‘Bad Girls’ (2012), and more recently ‘Borders’ (2016), are part of a life begun fleeing civil war and lived defiantly ever since. Among M.I.A.’s targets are the stereotypes attached to immigrants, including the xenophobic notion she speaks against in this film, that ‘they come and take the jobs and take the money.’
MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A. is inspirational viewing in the fearmongering climate of anti-immigrant Brexit Britain. This account of multicultural youth breaking into the music industry and continuing to provoke won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award upon its premier at Sundance Film Festival 2018.