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Matangi / Maya / M.I.A - An Intimate Portrait of an Unconventional Artist

An intimate portrait of the unconventional artist M.I.A, exploring her music, activism, and cultural identity.

Keywords: M.I.A, Sri Lankan Civil War, music, activism, immigrant, cultural identity. Three-words: Provocative, defiant, impactful.


"Matangi / Maya / M.I.A" is a captivating documentary directed by Steve Loveridge and released in 2018. It provides an intimate insight into the life and career of Mathangi 'Maya' Arulpragasam - better known by her stage name M.I.A, a British-Sri Lankan artist who consistently defies conventions. The documentary's theme is particularly relevant in today's era of increasing cultural diversity and social activism in music.


The documentary draws from a vast array of personal footage, spanning decades of M.I.A's life - from her migrant background, through her rise to fame, to her outspoken political activism. It challenges the audience's perception of the pop culture icon, revealing the complexity of her identity and the multifaceted narrative of her journey.

More Film Analysis



"Matangi / Maya / M.I.A" is a participatory documentary, utilizing a wealth of personal archives. It delves deep into M.I.A's persona, exploring her refugee status, her artistry, and her political activism. The documentary excels in presenting a balanced portrait, showcasing both her triumphs and controversies.

Historical and Factual Context


M.I.A's life is interwoven with the Sri Lankan Civil War, a brutal conflict that raged from 1983 to 2009. Understanding this context is crucial to comprehend her activism and music.

Key themes in the film

  • Cultural Identity: The struggle of reconciling one's cultural roots with Western society.
  • Art as Activism: Using music and art as a platform for political statements.
  • The Immigrant Experience: Exploring the challenges and discrimination faced by immigrants.

Film Comparisons

Compared to other artist documentaries on iWonder like "Amy" or "20 Feet from Stardom", "Matangi / Maya / M.I.A" stands out due to the artist's intense political engagement and the exploration of her Sri Lankan heritage.

Noteworthy Moments

One particularly impactful moment is the revelation of M.I.A's father's involvement as a founder of the Tamil resistance, which adds layers to her political activism.


The documentary was well-received, with Variety calling it "as provocative and confrontational as its subject".


"Matangi / Maya / M.I.A" is a must-watch for anyone interested in music, social activism, or immigrant experiences. It offers an unprecedented look at an artist who refuses to be boxed in.

More film information:


  • IMDB score: 7.5/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
  • Metacritic score: 72
  • Film festival awards: World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award at Sundance Film Festival.



  • Mathangi 'Maya' Arulpragasam (M.I.A): A British-Sri Lankan artist known for her music and activism.
  • Steve Loveridge: The director of the documentary.



  • London, United Kingdom: Where M.I.A grew up and started her music career.
  • Sri Lanka: M.I.A's birthplace and the backdrop of her activism.

Key Questions Raised by the Film

  • How does cultural heritage influence an artist's work?
  • Can an artist effectively use their platform for political activism?
  • What is the impact of the immigrant experience on personal identity?

I wonder what the film would be in another art form

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  1. A famous book, it would be "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou, for its exploration of personal identity and social issues.
  2. A famous song, it would be "Imagine" by John Lennon, for its call for peace amidst conflict.
  3. A famous piece of art, it would be Picasso's "Guernica," reflecting the horror of war.
  4. A famous celebrity, it would be Madonna, for her boundary-breaking persona.
  5. A colour, it would be red, symbolizing passion and rebellion.
  6. A music style, it would be a fusion of Hip-Hop and World Music, reflecting M.I.A's diverse influences.