MATANGI/MAYA/M.I.A.

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Steve Loveridge

Starring

M.I.A.

Anticipation.

A documentary profile that has been coolly received by its subject must be good.

Enjoyment.

Well put together and packed with lots of revealing behind-the-scenes footage.

In Retrospect.

Hard to know the nature of M.I.A.’s beef – unless she wanted it to be more objectively critical.

Filmmaker Steve Loveridge takes us on a whistle-stop tour of the life and career of his close friend M.I.A.

The story goes that in 2011 Sri Lankan hip hop agitator M.I.A. handed over many hundreds of hours of personal footage to her old art school pal Steve Loveridge in order that he might shape it into a movie.

Flash forward to 2018 and the product of seven years in the edit suite is MATANGI/MAYA/M.I.A., a spiky if highly conventional profile piece that is in no way reflective of its conspicuously weird title treatment. Per a film festival press conference, the militantly plainspoken M.I.A. (real name “Maya” Arulpragasam) is apparently not at all that thrilled with the result, though it’s a little difficult to understand from where her ire stems.

Her meteoric rise to fame is laced with controversy, and the film appears as an attempt to balance the scales. For instance, when she voices her anger at the oppression of Sri Lankan Tamils during a publicity blitz ahead of the 2008 Grammys, she’s mocked for politicising her status as a light entertainer.

Having already seen moving amateur footage from her twenties when she decided to return to her birthplace to acquire first-hand knowledge of the situation there, the tables turn and the film is more about how she was often the butt of institutionalised racism. As a whistle-stop tour of her life so far, it works fairly well, primarily because there’s a surfeit of vivid material to complement the various episodes.

An hour into the film, Loveridge seems to be on a mission to absolve his erstwhile cohort of all her apparent sins, framing her critics as a bigots and guttersnipes while always giving M.I.A. the last word. Her long and vocal association with WikiLeaks is notable by its absence, lending the film the feel of lively propaganda rather than an honest reflection of life as a nonconformist in the limelight.

Published 18 Sep 2018

Tags: M.I.A. Steve Loveridge

Anticipation.

A documentary profile that has been coolly received by its subject must be good.

Enjoyment.

Well put together and packed with lots of revealing behind-the-scenes footage.

In Retrospect.

Hard to know the nature of M.I.A.’s beef – unless she wanted it to be more objectively critical.

Read More

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami

By David Jenkins

Sophie Fiennes offers a satisfyingly original portrait of the iconic singer, artist and occasional actor.

review

Does being authorised make a documentary more authentic?

By Ed Gibbs

Director Steve Loveridge was granted unprecedented access to singer-activist M.I.A, but does it meaningfully enhance his film?

Generation Wealth

By Hannah Woodhead

Lauren Green field surveys the influence of affluence in this captivating documentary.

review

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design