Over the course of the last decade, the portrayal of refugees in the UK media has been simplistic, to say the least. The entire debate has been focused on those making dangerous journeys across half the world to seek haven from wars, violence and poverty. They tend to be lazily lumped together, with little or no focus on their individual stories. Mathangi Arulpragasam, aka M.I.A., has a story to tell and in Steve Loveridge’s new documentary Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. she is given free rein to tell it.
Born in Hounslow in 1975, Matangi’s first stay in the UK lasted a mere 6 months. She was whisked off to Northern Sri Lanka by her father who adopted the name Arular and became a founder member of a Tamil resistance group. She spent much of her early childhood living in hiding, finally arriving back in London as a refugee at the age of nine. Matangi became Maya and went on to become one of the most recognisable visual and musical artists living in the UK under the moniker M.I.A. Using extensive footage (she has documented much of her adult life) and enjoying unprecedented access, Loveridge gives the talented star a soap box to tell her story.
Matangi/Maya/M.I.A provides a fascinating insight into one of the most outspoken and innovative musicians working within the music industry. Whilst the footage at Loveridge’s disposal is clearly rich and plentiful, he deftly connects the dots and paints a rich picture of a controversial figure. M.I.A has a lot to say and whilst the film covers the negative press around her, it’s entirely one-sided. She’s never challenged about her position or on any of the allegations made against her. On the other hand, she’s clearly been targeted, especially in America. Whether that’s down to her ethnicity or gender is a whole different film. Either way, it’s a thought-provoking documentary.