Matangi / Maya / M.I.A.
“Why are you a problematic pop star?” Drawn from a cache of personal video recordings from the past 22 years, director Steve Loveridge’s Sundance World Cinema Documentary award-winning Matangi / Maya / M.I.A. is a startlingly personal, high-energy profile of the critically acclaimed Sri Lankan-born, London-bred artist chronicling her remarkable journey from refugee immigrant to international pop star.
Born Matangi Arulpragasam, daughter of Arul Pragasm, founder of Sri Lanka’s Tamil Resistance Movement, her family fled the country in the face of its vicious and bloody civil war. In London she became Maya, a precocious and creative immigrant teenager. Finally, she met the world as M.I.A. when she emerged on the global stage; having created a mashup, cut-and-paste identity and musical style that pulled from every corner of her experience – blending Tamil politics, art school punk, hip-hop beats and the confident, unwavering voice of a natural activist.
Loveridge, a friend of Arulpragasam, uses her own historical footage to follow her story as her fame explodes and the controversies around her public statements – whether her commentary on the Tamils’ oppression, which led some outlets labelling her a possible terrorist sympathiser or her middle finger to the camera during Madonna’s 2012 Super Bowl show – begins to grow.
What results is an intriguing look at a magnetic, spiky and tough-minded woman who’s created a unique and vibrant musical brand by deploying the rich array of sonic and aesthetic influences within her complicated cultural identity. It takes its lead from its subject – who isn’t interested in perfection or even necessarily in likeability; but rather in exploring and exploiting her power to speak about the world’s injustices as well as the multi-faceted experiences of her own life.