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Review: Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.

October 5, 2018

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Directed by her longtime friend Steve Loveridge, and featuring a wealth of her own personal videos alongside concert footage, Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. is an engaging and often exciting look at the life and career of the socially conscious Tamil hip hop star M.I.A., and the controversies that she has courted.

Born in Sri Lanka as Mathangi Arulpragasam, she moved to England as a refugee with her family after her father joined the Tamil Tigers as a resistance fighter. She actually started out as a filmmaker before adopting the stage name M.I.A., becoming a major breakout sensation with her first album Piracy Funds Terrorism in 2005.

M.I.A.’s successes continued in 2008 with her big hit song “Paper Planes”, as well as the Oscar-nominated track “O… Saya” from Slumdog Millionaire. But she has also sparked controversy over the years, from openly speaking out against the Sri Lankan government to raise awareness of the Tamil genocide, to raising her middle finger during Madonna’s Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2012.

Finally, Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. moves at a good pace, offering a compelling and at times thrilling glimpse into M.I.A.’s world and the complex politics that have defined it since before she even ended up in the spotlight. The film does a good job of showing the many facets that she has as a performer, and how fearless she has been and continues to be when it comes to being seen and speaking out.

Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. is now playing in limited release at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto, tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

A version of this review was originally published during the 2018 Hot Docs Film Festival.

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