Admiring profile of tough-minded rapper, who has taken up the cause of Tamil resistance in Sri Lanka and suffered a huge backlash as a result
Many years in the making, this definitive documentary on political musician MIA is credited to long-time friend Stephen Loveridge. Really it should at least be co-credited to Matangi/Maya Arulpragasam – for one thing, it’s her own footage of her early career and in Sri Lanka, where the film sources its greatest energy. More than that, she’s the controlling spirit of this enjoyable documentary: always the centre of attention, performing and setting the mood with absolute magnetism. It’s clear she’s the director of her own life and Loveridge just happens to occasionally be in the right place at the right time.
The structure of the film is mostly linear and traditional, following MIA from early days as the child of Sri Lankans immigrant in London to present-day fame, controversy and motherhood. But there’s nothing traditional about her – she and her siblings had to be tough and reinvent themselves in the absence of a father who was away as an activist in the Tamil resistance movement. Her music, artwork, fashion and general angry-rave aesthetic appears to have come to her with little effort; she just knew it would work.