No ordinary pop documentary, reads the poster, but M.I.A. is no ordinary pop star.
If you’ve not see it before this video for Born Free is a shocking centrepiece to the documentary.
I have been a fan of Maya Arulpragasam (AKA M.I.A) for over a decade now so this film came as a pleasant surprise. Allegedly it’s been over a decade in the making and the relationship between Maya and the filmmaker, Steve Loveridge, has been, to say the least, “challenging”.
She’s a bloody difficult woman, as it reveals.
The daughter of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, a terrorist minority resistance group that was formed in 1976, she had to flee her home land of Sri Lanka in 1986 to set up home in London with her mother, brother and sister while her dad fought the good fight in the face of what she claims was ‘ethnic cleansing’. It was ten years before she met her father again.
Clearly she has inherited her father’s sense of justice and fighting spirit.
Basing her unique style of hip hop on political oppression she has been an unlikely success, rising to top the Billboard dance charts and performing alongside Madonna at the Super Bowl where she raised her middle finger to camera and in doing so enraged the NFL so much that they sued her for $16.6 million.
Her right to be angry is, in my opinion, quite reasonable but clearly her detractors think it is a stunt as she has gathered considerable wealth since her politically oppressed immigrant days.
For me, her wealth is irrelevant.
The documentary is a curate’s egg. Some of it rambles almost incoherently, using found footage on dodgy VHS tape from her childhood, some of it is expertly shot. Its timeline is also so scattergun as to be quite confusing at times and this jolts the narrative. At times one wonders what the point really is.
She doesn’t shirk criticism, but the reaction of the NFL on American TV drew loud guffaws from the audience I was in at their petty outrage. It’s certainly a precursor to Colin Kaepernick’s ‘Taking the Knee’ and a good, if a little childish, one at that.
Madonna was not overly happy.
For fans of M.I.A. this is a must see, for others I doubt you will be engrossed.
For me, even as a fan, it took a good hour to reel me in. But once there I was sold.