Matangi/Maya/MIA review – portrait of a swaggering scandal-magnet

The rapper MIA comes across as impulsive, seductive, brattish and immensely likable in this scrappy documentary

‘I’m unmanageable,” jokes rapper/singer/firebrand activist MIA on the phone to her manager in the midst of yet another scandal. (You don’t hear the manager’s side of the conversation. But “Why can’t you just keep quiet and be normal?” may have been running through their mind.) MIA emerges from this documentary about her life – the music plays second fiddle – as immensely likable. She swaggers about like an impossibly cool older sister, impulsive, seductive and brattishly difficult. The film itself is scrappily edited, directed by Steve Loveridge, an old friend from her art-school days, who had access to 700 hours of her home video.

MIA, real name Mathangi Arulpragasam, Maya to her friends, arrived on a London council estate from Sri Lanka as a refugee aged eight with her mum and two siblings. Her father, a fighter with the Tamil resistance, remained in Sri Lanka. Some of the best footage here is of the teenage Mathangi dancing in her bedroom to hip-hop – all ambition and gobby attitude. She didn’t have the greatest voice, but she could hustle and had a talent for pulling in collaborators to forge her cross-cultural DIY sound of London. And God, can she dance.

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