On Friday, November 30th, I attended the film screening of Matangi|Maya|M.I.A. in White Hall 112. The film, which played at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, depicted the life story of famous singer/artist M.I.A.
I first heard M.I.A. in 2008 because her song “Paper Planes” was all over the radio. I did not particularly like the song because I thought the gun shot and cash register sound effects were annoying. Seeing the Behind-the-Scenes process and meaning behind the song in the documentary, I had no idea of the cultural and political significance of the song and that it represented society’s perception of darker-skinned immigrants.
I also knew about M.I.A. because she performed alongside Madonna at the Super Bowl in 2012 which is the biggest stage an artist will ever perform in their entire career. At the time, I had no idea that M.I.A. held up her middle finger during the broadcast and that their was public backlash throughout news media. The documentary showed a white Fox News host saying, “We love Madonna, but why would she choose M.I.A.? She’s not even American, why can’t we have people like Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert perform and put America into our football?” Seeing this was so shocking and really solidified the theme of the documentary and why M.I.A.’s music is so important politically.
Overall, the documentary was very insightful and effectively showcased a diverse pop star who stood up for what she believed in despite the political and social backlash. She was able to back through into mainstream pop without being a cookie cutter typically white female pop star that is heavily controlled by the male gaze. She broke barriers and I am glad the filmmakers decided to tell her story.