What is up with documentaries nowadays? Most of the documentaries I see in theaters are either incredibly ambitious and successful in execution of a specific style/take to it’s medium, or just bland and tasteless with a somewhat interesting subject at the core. I will reiterate this, but I would much rather see a film which takes more risks than a safe predictable approach, no matter how bad the end product would be. What’s the point of going to the movies, when all the films will eventually just feel the same? In comes MATANGI/MAYA/M.I.A, British director Stephen Loveride’s directorial debut, which surprisingly lands in the middle of the spectrum I mentioned.
MANTAGI/MAYA/M.I.A is essentially a doc recounting the life story of social activist pop star M.I.A, from her troubled beginnings in Sri Lanka, to flipping off millions on live television during the 2012 Superbowl. Her story is an interesting one to say the least, in which each element detailed throughout the film will leave you in shock and awe. Social activism also takes a brilliant turn in this film, using old interviews on part of M.I.A’s personal collection of rare video footage, in which the film delved more into personal experiences rather than rumors from a third party. The amount of documentation and footage Stephen and his editing crew managed to get is outstanding. As for the execution and presentation of said documentation? Well, not as impressive.
MANTAGI/MAYA/M.I.A is an incredibly safe doc. There’s not much attempts stylistically or directing wise to impress the audience. It’s a doc that plays it very by the book, with traditional overlapping interview footage, and the occasional chronological framing device. For a film about a person that is so momentous in today’s society, it’s a bit disappointing to see the film falter in trying something new. Although documentaries are meant to specifically educate, they should be more than that. It’s a medium within itself, a perfect tool to entertain and subvert expectations. It’s been done before countless times. Filmmaker’s like Errol Morris or Michael Moore have crafted their own respective styles of presenting a documentary. Maybe it just needs time. Who knows? Maybe Stephen might actually find his knack a few films down the road.
Although it’s execution may be bland, MANTAGI/MAYA/M.I.A is an incredibly engaging and provoking doc. Albeit it’s several missed opportunities when developing it’s stylistic identity, the film suffices enough information and great educational material that will astonish audiences young and old alike.
MATANGI/MAYA/M.I.A Is Now Playing In Select North American Cinemas
Note: I would highly recommend seeing this film in cinemas. M.I.A’s songs are just so damn catchy! BANG BANG BANG!