Filmmaker Steve Loveridge condenses around 700 hours of personal footage belonging to his friend from art school, controversial pop pioneer M.I.A. (born Maya Arulpragasam) into an energetic doc that chronicles her career all the way to her infamous 2012 performance at the Super Bowl. She initially lambasted the doc upon its release, having been kept out of the loop by Loveridge and expecting the end result to be a more conventional behind-the-scenes tour film. But the finished product is significantly more interesting because it veers away from what you’d expect from a music doc and instead delves into her background as a Sri Lankan child refugee in 1990s London who wanted to become an artist. As Maya reflects, with her trademark candidness: “One day in Sri Lanka, I was getting shot at for being a Tamil. Then I came to England and I was getting spat at for being a Paki.”
Matangi / Maya / M.I.A. isn’t as essential as recent genre standouts like Searching For Sugar Man or Asif Kapadia’s Amy, but is to be applauded for getting off the beaten track. All told, it’s an uneven portrait that occasionally dips into hagiographic waters in its second half but remains compelling, especially when it tackles issues linked to institutionalised prejudice and addresses the lose-lose dilemma of being not enough or too outspoken as someone who is both artist and activist in the eyes of the media.
Mantagi / Maya / M.I.A. / Directed by Steve Loveridge (UK, 2018). Starts November 22.
Check our OV search engine for showtimes.