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Matangi/Maya/MIA – The case for the world citizen seeking justice as made by MIA (review)

Matangi/Maya/MIA – The case for the world citizen seeking justice as made by MIA (review)

New doc of global popstar has incredible arc…

UP CLOSE and personal (to a degree) may be one way of describing this documentary.

Made by her old college friend, Steve Loveridge, it’s a terrific chronicle of how the child refugee became a global pop star. That is some story and it needs to be told.

Few people will know her first ambition was to be a documentary filmmaker and why she studied at St Martin’s in London; and that is no ordinary art college either, the folks there must have seen something we all would only much later though – the artist in training.

There is early home video footage of her dancing with her uncles – she looks so sweet – now look at her making offensive signs to American grannies and corporate execs who have shelled out a huge sum to have glitzy pop razzmatazz…

Her most notorious incident in 2012 – the time when she was asked to be one of the supporting acts to Madonna at the US’s big showpiece American Football Superbowl Final – and she sticks up a middle finger at the camera and the watching millions.

A scene from the documentary, Matangi/Maya/MIA

The immediate fall-out is well covered and with typical indifference, she barely offers an explanation – something about not really ascribing to the same values as those paying her. Haha.

You either quite enjoy that sort of rebelliousness or think it a sign of attention-seeking and hypocrisy and believe MIA possesses no more than an inflated ego and a childish desire to provoke.

But if you are more sympathetic, this film has a lot to offer – her time in Sri Lanka, also includes home video footage when she was Maya or Matangi (Mathangi Arulpragasam) and not MIA, the pop star.

We get a view of the terrible civil war from ordinary Tamil folks who live in Colombo – and not in the Tamil enclave of the north.

The doc is very much the story of her journey from the Badlands (as much they are) of Merton and Tooting to the bright lights of New York and LA, via Colombo, the Tamil struggle in Sri Lanka and how it all shaped her outlook.

You get the impression she is far better known and followed in the US, than she is in her homeland (Britain).

She continues to be active and oppose oppression and tyranny and discrimination and naturally has an affinity with refugees and migrants of all descriptions.

Some find her and other pop stars’ activism grating but deep down, and in her case, it comes from the very real experience of being a child refugee and striving to make a difference and to be heard.

If you like her music or her outspokenness, you will enjoy this documentary, but she is very much someone who wears her heart on her sleeve and doesn’t hold back. What you get in public is probably no different to what you get in private.

There is a softer side to her – you see her with her young son – in a Tamil café in Tooting and it’s a lovely, touching couple of minutes.

This is not a confrontational or revelatory documentary in that sense and as such MIA gets to present her case to the world.

It is not completely criticism free, but the challenge comes from Loveridge’s camera and is perhaps a little too passive, all things being told.

There is very little about her partners or her young son (advisedly, we don’t need to know much about them), but you do not get anything from her about her outlook on love or romance. It may be that she is trying to avoid typical fodder for a female celebrity.

She narrates but the much of the footage has its own commentary.

However, this will almost certainly endear her to those who already love her, while giving those who are curious much to ponder (and enjoy).

She is one of Britain’s great pop exports and long may she continue to wage the good fight!

ACV rating: *** (out of five)
Sailesh Ram


This is an erly trailer clip promo

Matangi/Maya.M.I.A is out on release from today (September 21)


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Written by Asian Culture Vulture