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Film Editorial

miafilm Matangi/Maya/M.I.A
 

Director: Stephen Loveridge

Features: M.I.A

Early in this documentary about Mathangi ‘Maya’ Arulpragasam - aka rapper and songwriter MIA - she is asked what makes her such a problematic figure. She struggles to answer. Fashioning a coherent portrait of the artist proves equally elusive. Drawing from an extensive record of videos (the artist is a long time serial self-chronicler) the picture messily outlines Arulpragasam’s life and career; her childhood in Sri Lanka where she mainly lived with her grandmother; her teen years on a South East London council estate with her mum (her dad, a major player in the militant separatist Tamil Tigers movement remained in Sri Lanka); a break designing an Elastica album sleeve; and critical and commercial success that greeted her debut album ‘Arular’. The picture also explores the controversy that has dogged the artist; the alleged political naiveté; and the incident when she gave the camera the middle finger during Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show. Despite being made by her old St Martins college pal Stephen Loveridge, this turns out to be a less than flattening portrait that does little to counter accusations levelled at MIA of radical chic posturing. Her Sri Lankan family seem unimpressed with her professed attachment to the Tamil Tigers movement; a telling moment has Elastica’s Justine Frischmann accusing MIA of storming off a tour because she is not getting enough attention. And when questioned about the admittedly overblown brouhaha concerning the Superbowl incident she claims that it was a ‘spiritual thing’. There are some great visuals, although they are mainly culled from her videos, and the music is fantastic of course, but the persistent chronology-juggling, presumably to illustrate the artist’s multi-faceted personality, is frustrating.