29th Jan2019

‘Matangi – Maya – M.I.A.’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Features: Mathangi Arulpragasam (aka M.I.A), Diplo, Madonna, Nicki Minaj | Written and Directed by Stephen Loveridge

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Directed by close friend Stephen Loveridge, Matangi – Maya – M.I.A. follows the life of controversial, outspoken and influential rapper Mathangi Arulpragasam AKA M.I.A. From her refugee status in the U.K. at 11, humble beginnings as a documentary filmmaker in the early 2000s and her relationship with her freedom fighter father, to rising status and eventual success as a hip-hop artist two years later, while chronicling her monumental critical acclaim with the surrounding controversies that followed such a meteoric rise in the public eye.

One of the biggest attributes this documentary offers is the sheer scale of erudition and detail that the life of Arulpragasam entails thus far. Her relationship with her father and connections with the Sri Lankan Tamil community are incredibly absorbing and lavish in emotional depth. The latter of which is the crux of what will inevitably be, good or for bad, the defining legacy of Arulpragasam herself. M.I.A. coming to terms with her fathers’ controversial history and the privilege of escaping genocide and growing up in a life of leisure in London (not without its very own trials and trepidations of racism, although unfortunately not dissected or discussed nearly enough) is astonishingly absorbing. The examination of a possible life never lived in such a culture as a Tamil in a brutal regime of rebels fighting against the establishment in a deeply fractious history with heavy threatening repercussions of fighting against repression is a fascinating albeit deeply disturbing and honest notion to see explored and also educated on behalf of the hidden genocide occurring.

The life and story beats of Arulpragasam in Matangi – Maya – M.I.A. is also showcased in small populated snippets of the often-unknown avenues of her relatively quiet personal life. Of which is still slightly vague and enigmatic surrounding relationships and family aside from the occasional overblown media controversy in the latter stages of her career, including very little on that of the Superbowl incident which is still an ongoing case. The film rather wisely and more effectively chooses to speak out on wider human concerns that personally matter to M.I.A. expressed through her art and privilege of having a voice in the media to touch on social issues, rather than insignificant celebrity hollowness. A sentiment that is perfectly and refreshingly mirrored in her own documentary.

An element that will be slightly unfortunate depending on your disposition of interest on each subject matter and personal intrigue on the artist herself. On the one hand, you’ll have the straight forward generic informative biographical dispatched throughout the film but primarily utilised in the films first act, with an efficient and plentiful dosage of character. Yet slowly but surely the film develops and evolves into a broader stroke of the legacy of the subject and individual. Analysing each small stroke and their specific impact on the growth of an artist in a bigger picture of whom is torn between the devastatingly haunting regime of the past, the abrasive artificial present and the daunting unknown future.

Matangi – Maya – M.I.A. is available on DVD and Blu-ray now from Dogwoof.

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