Over a decade in the making, Matangi/Maya/M.I.A has arrived as an unexpectedly personal look at the life of controversial Sri-Lankan pop star M.I.A. Rather than focusing wholly on her technical method of creating music, or following the more conventional tour documentary style, the film explores how her life experiences have influenced her music.

An artist who has been described as controversial a number of times throughout her career – anyone who is unfamiliar with her work may at least remember the ultraviolent film she released for Born Free in 2010, or her middle finger ‘mishap’ at the Super Bowl which sent journalists into a moral panic. The film gives the viewer the chance to see Maya’s experiences without being interrupted or mediated by talk show hosts and journalists, as she has been before in TV appearances.

Director Steve Loveridge has done an impressive job at stitching together a story about the artist out of the 700 hours of footage that she originally gave him a decade ago. Much like Asif Kapadia’s Amy, the film relies heavily on existing footage to create a portrait of M.I.A’s emergence as the powerful popstar that she is today.

Matangi/Maya/M.I.A is quite loose in its structure, using a chronological timeframe in order to chart Maya’s growth as an artist and to reveal her character behind her image. We get fed information through footage shot by Maya herself in her early twenties, and by others, leaving a deeply personal feeling to the film, and the feeling that we are being allowed to see her story.

Whilst it isn’t always desirable to see only one side of the story, Matangi/Maya/M.I.A feels like it is giving a voice to a controversial artist who, as an outspoken woman of colour, deserves to tell her story uninterrupted.



CAST: Mathangi Arulpragasam

DIRECTOR: Steve Loveridge

SYNOPSIS: A decade long documentary on one of the most controversial musicians/artists in the world.