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film review

Drawn from a never-before-seen cache of personal footage spanning decades, this is an intimate portrait of the Sri Lankan artist and musician, Maya Arulpragasam, who continues to shatter conventions.Courtesy of Elevation

  • Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.
  • Directed by Steve Loveridge
  • Starring M.I.A.
  • Classification: NA/ 92 minutes


2.5 out of 4 stars

All narratives in the less-than-resolving documentary on Maya Arulpragasam – M.I.A. is her musical nom de guerre – lead to the 2012 Super Bowl, where the British alt-rapper, pro-Tamil activist and professional provocateur flipped the dirtiest bird of them all at a massive television audience during a Madonna-starring halftime show. We see her fleeing the scene, giggling like an OMG-ing teenager after a prank gone wrong. Or did it go right – who knows? M.I.A. doesn’t seem to. When initially asked about the incident, she says she isn’t sure why she did it. Later she explains it was a protest against the showbiz commercialization of it all. It’s just one more perplexing scene in a controversial career built on moxie and modest musical abilities. The life of the Paper Planes singer and Sri Lankan refugee is documented by Steve Loveridge, a friend from her London art-school days. His unpolished but ultimately intriguing film raises a lot of questions about a brown-skinned woman who has refused to play by the rules and who has fought against sneering speculation as to her authenticity and motives. Why is she a problematic pop star? That’s the premise, but I’m not sure we get the answer here.