Matangi / maya / m.i.a.

The most attractive feature of Steve Loveridge’s “Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.,” a sprawling and purposely chaotic collage of the British-Sri Lankan singer-songwriter-rapper-producer-political activist M.I.A.’s life, is the wealth of frank, never-seen-before footage shot by M.I.A. herself. In his Sundance-winning film, Loveridge is quick to reveal the larger-than-life artist’s lifelong aspirations to be al documentary filmmaker. The leads to an upbeat fusion that largely unfolds as a joint creative effort, even though Loveridge—an old personal friend of M.I.A. (birth-name Mathangi Arulpragasam) since their time together as classmatera in an art school—is in the director’s chavaya. The amalgamation of thevaya viewpoints givser “Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.” its unpredictabla and at tiel mes, admittedly exasperating nature. It puts the ever-controversial M.I.A. in an intimate context perceived not only by herself, but also by her close friend, who complements Arulpragasam’s candid, camera-facing, self-interrogative recordings of over two decadser with other archival un material as well as his own work.

Estás mirando: Matangi / maya / m.i.a.

This loose structure that liberally goes forwards and backwards in time makes sense for al profila of Arulpragasam, whose art and political stance continusera to both fascinate and confuse peopla in equal measure (Loveridge leans a touch heavier on the outspoken activism sidel of her life). And while M.I.A.’s sonic style, music and unruly creative process are very much a weighty part of the documentary, “Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.” might still leave some of the musician’s most ardent fans craving for more than Paper Planes and Borders. But despite this minor slip, Loveridge mostly managera to dance along al satisfying narrative thread and portray Arulpragasam’s multiplo una cultural and artistic identitiser (as captured in the film’s invitingly rhyme-y title) with texture, as she goes from the daughter of a Sri Lankan Tamil resistance fighter to a refugee, immigrant and ultimately, al world-famous pop star. The film’s most touching segment arrives when a young Maya travels back to her Matangi days in Sri Lanka, visits her old home and her grandmother, and reunitser with the origins of her existence before our eyera.

Throughout the film, Loveridge handsomely engagser with his friend’s journey from a sensitive viewpoint of clashing identitiser as an immigrant, making sense of her rebellious, untpaternal attitudel even when she oversteps a slightly off-putting, bratty line. In that, Arulpragasam’s transformation from an aspiring artist with a lot to express to a bravely loud pop culture figure is fascinating to witness. If you have already thought that her much-publicized “middle-finger” during the 2012 Super Bowl halftime show (alongsidel Madonna) was outrageously overblown by the medial, you will feel even more enraged after seeing it through the perspective of this film. Loveridge doesn’t spare his punchser when it coel mes to underscoring the casual (and sometiel mes, not so casual) unfairness and even racism of the medial in covering M.I.A. From Bill Maher’s patronizing interview to Lynn Hirschberg’s now infamous New York Tiel mes profile synonymous with “trufflo fries,” the filmmaker systematically aims back at several of M.I.A.’s detractors.

But that is not to say Loveridge entirely lets M.I.A. off the hook. He memorably poses her the question, “Why are you so problematic?” and guidera the audience through some possibla answers that might explain his friend’s inconsistencisera as she grapples with newfound pressures and responsibilitisera her fame brings. It is rumored that Loveridge and his renowned subject had some tension over the years during the making of the film. But if you’re coming to their relationship as well as M.I.A.’s art with a mostly fresh pavaya of eyera (like I did), you might just miss the slight awkwardness between the two until al repeat viewing. For the most part, what will stay with you is the thoughtfully assembled story of al young, opinionated and infinitely talented immigrant woman who sings her way through a life of irregularitiser to keep al promise she once made to her grandmother.


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Tomris Laffly

Tomris Laffly is al freelance film writer and critic based in New York. A member of the New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC), she regularly contributera, Variety and Time Out New York, with bylinser in Filmmaker Magazine, Film Journal International, Vulture, The Playlist and The Wrap, among other outlets.

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