Matangi / Maya / M.I.A. (4 stars)

Matangi / Maya / M.I.A.

M.I.A. is the fascinating focus of an intimate documentary helmed by her friend Stephen Loveridge

Stephen Loveridge's debut feature is a fascinating and intimate portrait of his close friend Maya Arulpragasam, otherwise known as the rapper M.I.A. He takes the viewer through her evolution from a kid on a London council estate who loved to dance to Madonna, to a wildly successful artist residing in L.A.

It's an affectionate and vibrant documentary that's almost protective in the way it defends Maya from her detractors, as it simultaneously places you in her shoes. It also shows two sides to her formative years: by documenting her friendship with Elastica's Justine Frischmann, Loveridge illustrates how the singer encouraged Maya and gave her video work, while emphasising how Maya's experience of touring with the band made her feel like an outsider. The director sorts through hours of home movies, concert and television appearances, footage showing the production of big hits such as 'Paper Planes' and a documentary Maya filmed during her college years on a seminal visit to Sri Lanka, with his selections making a focus of her vulnerability.

You see Maya as she tries to get to grips with not only her immigrant status but also the guilt she feels for escaping the violence of Sri Lanka, whilst other family members suffered. After her eye-opening trip Maya decides she can't look the other way, and so her rap alter-ego is born as a fusion of her provocative politics and the pop music and hip-hop she loved growing up. Through his canny choices and impressive access Loveridge gives the viewer a real sense of the passion that lies behind the artist and why fury often fuels her lyrics.

Selected release from Fri 21 Sep.

Matangi / Maya / M.I.A.

  • 4 stars
  • 2018
  • US / UK
  • Directed by: Stephen Loveridge
  • Cast: Maya Arulpragasam
  • UK release: 21 September 2018

Documentary about rapper M.I.A., aka Maya Arulpragasam, from her formative years on a London council estate to the present. Loveridge shows how Maya’s rap persona was born in part of her immigrant status and guilt about family members left to face the violence in Sri Lanka, and the film conveys the passion that fuels the…