Matangi / Maya / M.I.A
Director: Steve Loveridge
The Amy Winehouse documentary was devastating – of course. But what was amazing about it – as is the case with documentary subjects that came of age across the last two decades – was the gathered footage. Home videos, goof-offs, early social media…
This portrait of the artist and musician M.I.A. (Mathangi Arulpragasam) shows what can happen when that same sort of footage (the sheer amount) is used to capture a contemporary figure still living; director Loveridge was a film-school friend of Arulpragasam and she gave him some 700 hours of home-video footage to assemble this film.
Contradictions abound, as Mathangi, then Maya, then (and now) M.I.A goes from enthusiastic cheerleader (for Elastica) and aspiring filmmaker to artist and musician in her own right. She goofs-off but she’s deadly serious about her political activism. The American press, in particular, either cannot cope or cannot be bothered. Sexism. Racism. Reductivism. It’s all here.
It’s all exquisitely and excruciatingly documented, a lot of the footage shot by M.I.A herself.
She seemed to burst onto the scene without precedent, and whilst that was almost certainly the case, this film shows that it was not by fluke, not without hard work, not without purpose.
And yet the film is more concerned with Maya’s immigrant story than her songwriting and live performances. That’s the real story.
It’s a mixtape of a film – which fits the aesthetic of its subject. It’s also, as a result, one of the best music docos I’ve seen. It seems to exist for the two potential audiences: fans of her work, of course. But also fans of documentaries, maybe including people previously unaware of or skeptical about M.I.A. You’ll be converted after viewing this whirlwind collage based around the 22 years of filmed snapshots of Matangi, then Maya, then M.I.A
It’s worth it for the re-view of M.I.A flipping off the audience at the Superbowl. We even get to see some of the fallout and behind-the-scenes chaos.
This is about the political story. About the human story.
But if you were – or are – a fan you’ll be reminded, in the spaces between a hectic life, of some fantastic music.
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