Drawn from a never-before-seen cache of personal footage spanning decades, this is an intimate portrait of the Sri Lankan artist and musician who continues to shatter conventions.
Director: Steve Loveridge (as Stephen Loveridge)
Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. is an illuminating and enjoyable portrait of one of the most interesting pop musicians of this century who, even after this, remains inscrutable in many of the ways that matter.
Born Mathangi Arulpragasam — the film is named for the various names she goes by — this is directed by her friend, and former art school classmate, Steve Loveridge.
It is clearly a love letter from a pal and one that tries to show her as he understands her: a complicated, conflicted artist whose amazing backstory informs all that she does and has led to her creating some incredible music and art. The daughter of a founding member of the Sri Lankan resistance, she was caught between that world and the often racist Britain her family immigrated to.
What really makes the doc is the use of grainy home video footage, much shot by Arulpragasam herself. In subsequent interviews she has said she is still uncomfortable with how much of it is being shared in this film.
There are also good glimpses at controversial parts of the story, showing her side of the infamous Lynn Hirschberg New York Times profile and also the Super Bowl incident where she gives the finger while supporting Madonna during the halftime performance.
Despite being someone who will lash out as a defence mechanism, M.I.A. comes off as a great deal more likable than she’s been portrayed in the media, and as someone who is working to help the causes that are important to her.
But just as her art can be messy and cacophonous, this isn’t a neat and tidy doc that ties up all the loose ends. Loveridge provides much needed warmth, but there are areas where the film could have benefited from a more pointed and less close to his subject director.
In a year where studies of fictional female pop stars are coming in various forms like A Star is Born, Son Lux and Her Smell, Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. shows how compelling the real thing remains.
– Raju Mudhar, Toronto Star