Saturday, September 29, 2018

'Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.' A Candid Look At The Scrappy Scandal-Magnet, Repeatedly Silenced By The Age of Celebrity

The most intriguing part of M.I.A's new documentary “Matangi/Maya/M.I.A." is that Maya, (birthname Matangi Arulpragasam), originally wanted to be a documentary filmmaker, having felt she had so much to share with the world. Before becoming the notoriously provocative English-Sri Lankan musician that we've all come to know, Maya was busy creating personal footage of her family and friends, both in London and Sri Lanka. Now, Steve Loveridge, one of her very dear friends from film school has made the Sundance-winning documentary about her, utilizing hundreds upon hundreds of hours of personal footage that Maya has accumulated from her youth to present day. This makes for a very personal profile that doesn't feel like propaganda made out to make you like her necessarily or to boost album sales (she hasn't released one since 2016).

Maya immigrated with her mother and siblings to London from Sri Lanka as a refugee from the civil war in the mid-1980s. Her father was the founder of the Tamil revolutionaries and stayed behind to fight, only coming later on the UK. She touches upon her love for Western hip-hop growing up and her trip back to Sri Lanka to film a documentary about her heritage and answer some questions about her own identity.

The concept of not belonging to either your native country nor the one you were brought up in rings true for me on a very personal level and will be sure to touch other immigrant youths as well. Feeling like she stood out in London, Maya goes back to Sri Lanka to make her film school documentary she was developing at the time. Upon coming back, she chats to family members, who remind her that she didn't go through the unrest and turmoil that surrounded their lives. She's yet again an outsider, confused about where she truly belongs. The idea of being a child of immigrant parents and dealing with the confusion of your own self-identity and heritage was a portion of the film that stood out, and I almost wish was touched upon even more, as it's a topic that's swept under the rug on a regular basis in the society we live in today. 

Coming back from Sri Lanka to London, Maya decides to incorporate elements of her heritage and roots into making a hip-hop mixtape and taking it to UK producers. The rest is history. With the hours of personal footage, early demos, and behind-the-scenes views of some of her ballsiest, most controversial moments in her career, you're left feeling a deep respect for this intelligent, well-spoken, and independent artist, and at times shocked at the way the media portrays her. Loveridge offers fantastic examples of this such as the visit from former New York Times writer Lynn Hirschberg, where she fawns over Maya's work then proceeds to write a scathing review on her, to all the times she's been labeled a terrorist sympathizer, or uneducated on the politics of Sri Lanka.

While some may not like that the film focuses on her formative years, it offers a look into the mind of an artist that people have been quick to discredit, making it only fair she gets to share her side of the story. A voice for the marginalized that understands the necessity of having a large platform and using it to talk about issues that will, if anything, educate the masses, M.I.A is finally given a platform to speak. "The worst thing they can do is make you irrelevant," she says at one point and thanks to Loveridge, that simply won't be a reality. 

Once again, a huge thank you to Taro PR, Elevation Pictures, and The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) for the tickets and opportunity to view this fabulous documentary.


1 comment

  1. seems like a great documentary to watch.


© Paradise Playground. All rights reserved.