Matangi / Maya / M.I.A. Blu-ray Review
"Bonafide hustler making my name"
Movies reviewSRP: £14.99
Matangi / Maya / M.I.A. Film Review
Daughter of a terrorist, this new documentary looks back at the colourful life journey of controversial Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A.Perhaps best known for her hit song Paper Planes, M.I.A. clearly had a very interesting childhood, born to the founding leader of the Tamil resistance movement, emigrating to the UK at a young age, and struggling to find her identity in life with the weight of the baggage that came from her heritage.
This documentary, which is largely comprised of home videos, interviews, narration and music video and concert clips, takes you through her young life - looking for direction - and her adult life speaking out and often getting into trouble for it.
There's something magical about watching a young artist go from playing around with mix tapes to taking the stage at a packed-out concert.
Whilst clearly done with complete access to her family, her life and hundreds of home videos which offer a very frank look at her earlier years, this isn't a promotional piece - it doesn't just celebrate the work and activism of this Tamil freedom (of speech) fighter, curiously offering a broader vision of the decisions that she has made and, quite admirably, leaving the viewer to come to their own conclusions about the rationalisations and justifications that often come from her mouth only after she's done something striking or controversial.
Her talent is undeniable, and the musical - and music video - ideas are imaginative, and there's something magical about watching a young artist go from playing around with mix tapes and home videos to taking the stage at a packed-out concert and making a glossy music video, but the moments that are really compelling are where we journey through the more treacherous waters of her fame and success without seeing them framed as something to be unequivocally celebrated. More of this may have made this documentary both incisive and electric.
Matangi / Maya / M.I.A. Blu-ray PictureAs a documentary charting some 40 years and featuring home video footage from across those decades, there's no way that this production was ever going to look conventionally good, but this Region B-locked Blu-ray release is afforded a solid 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation - flipping across the changing aspect ratios and distinctly variable quality of footage with a generally steady increase in quality (notwithstanding the not wholly linear presentation of the footage).
A well put-together documentary that often looks far better than it should.
Given this understanding, it's remarkable that we get to see some of these home videos in a watchable format at all, and it's necessary to take that view when digesting the quality of presentation that we are often afforded. The home video footage is almost incapable of being technically assessed - it's a veritable cornucopia of visual defects - but the more modern digital footage is, by comparison, superior in every way, with rich, lush colours in the concerts and music videos, and even more so in the interviews. It hardly stands a chance at a demo award, but it's a well put-together documentary that often looks far better than it should and, at times, looks downright excellent.
Matangi / Maya / M.I.A. Blu-ray SoundA strong affair, making the most of the musical output that defines this artist almost more than words can.
The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track is much easier to gauge, similarly contending with some distinctly variable audio recordings for the early home video footage - some of which even requires imposed subtitles - but more often than not backed by a wide selection of song tracks from M.I.A., engaging and colouring in the journey with beat-laden prose. There's little in the way of effects here; perhaps a couple of the music videos enjoy a more boisterous gun-and-bomb-laden repertoire, but otherwise it's mostly natural atmospherics picked up during the decades-long journey. It's a strong affair, making the most of the musical output that defines this artist almost more than words can.
Matangi / Maya / M.I.A. Blu-ray ExtrasThere are a few nice extras looking behind the scenes of a concert, with concert footage and interview snippets too.
Matangi / Maya / M.I.A. Blu-ray VerdictFar from just a promo piece.
For those who know little about M.I.A. beyond Paper Planes, this documentary provides an interesting look at four decades of never less than colourful life experiences, not quite becoming the compelling expose that it perhaps could have been if it were made a little more independently, but also far from just a promo piece unequivocally celebrating every (sometimes questionable) decision this artist has made.
The Blu-ray release provides very good image presentation in spite of some understandably limited quality home video footage, and similarly the audio does a great job, although the track benefits from plenty of music numbers from the artist herself. A few nice extras round off a solid package.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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