Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. (2018) - full transcript

Drawn from a never-before-seen cache of personal footage spanning decades, this is an intimate portrait of the Sri Lankan artist and musician who continues to shatter conventions.




- WOMAN: Maya?
- MAYA: Hm?

WOMAN: Can you film on this?


MAYA: You have to give it, erm,
time for the camera to adjust focus.

That looks good.

J‘ Gravity's my enemy

J“ It grabs at me like I'm on E

J“ The stars are banging close to me

J“ As I'm floating in the life odyssey

I My lines are down
You can't call me

J‘ As I float around in space odyssey

I My lines are down
You can't call me

J‘ As I float around in space odyssey

I Ooh, ah, ah, ah
Ah, ah, ah, ah... I



Where is Yuli with Raj Kamal's boat?

STEVE: Why are you a problematic
pop star? Why don't you just...

Shut up? Why don't you just
shut up and get a hit?

Yeah. Why don’t you?

MAYA: IfI shut up and get a hit,

I would have to become a drug addict
and overdose

or, like, meet a very bad ending
to the story, because that’s what happens

when you don ’t express
the shit you need to express.

I came to music as a medium,

but the need to express myself
through anything existed before.


I Growin' up, brewin' up
Guerrilla gettin' trained up

I Look out, look out
From over the rooftop

I Growin‘ up, brewin' up
Guerrilla gettin‘... I

I wanted to be a documentary film-maker.

I felt like I had, like,
a million stories to put on film.

I Row da boat straight to da ocean

I Give him a run a run at his own game

I Signal the plane
An' I landed on the runway

I A survivor, independent foreigner

I First your beats had me running
To the running man... I

STEVE: I met Maya in 1996
when we were at art school together.

After a while we made friends
and we started working together,

helping each other out
on our film projects.

Oh, dear, let's first do a video project!

Central Saint Martins
wasn 't very diverse.

There were no black people
or brown people in our year at all.

So, she kind of stood out.


She made films about the friends she grew
up with, the kids on her council estate.

But the thing that really fascinated me
was her own story.


MAYA: You know,
there are loads of people here

who can empathise with
what it's like to have a dad

who became a banker, a lawyer,
a judge, a fucking whatever.

And this is what happened to a kid
whose dad went off and became a terrorist.

And this is how it fucked up the family.

And this is how it fucked up the people.
This is how it fucked up the country.


For the ten years we lived in Sri Lanka
we were surrounded by civil war.

My dad was the founder
of the Tamil Resistance Movement

and my family was in danger all the time.

We came to England as refugees -
myself, my mum, my sister, my brother -

in May 1985.

My dad stayed in Sri Lanka
to fight the war.

REPORTER: For many years there
have been about 30,000 Tamils in Britain.

But in the last ten days alone, at least
100 refugees have arrived in South London

and are being placed with Tamil families
already here.

Now, the government say
there are too many of them,

placing an enormous strain
on the system.


MA YA: Music was my medicine.

I had to deal with the fact
that I was something else

and I was different
and I was an immigrant.

In Sri Lanka I was getting shot at
for being a Tamil

then I came to England and was
getting spat at for being a Paki.

We had this second-hand radio.

I'd put my headphones on
and sleep to it every night

listening to...Madonna and Taylor Dean

or whatever that was, like,
a hit at the time.

One day, I was coming home from school
and all my neighbours

were stood in, like, a line
passing all this stuff out of our house.

I was, like, you can keep everything.
I know you did it cos I saw you.

But can I have my radio back?
And they were, like, "No".

And, erm, so that night I went to sleep
without headphones

and without pop music.

And then I heard the bass line
come from the other neighbour's house

which was, you know,
he was listening to hip hop.

And it was, like, the first time
I heard Public Enemy

and all these, erm, hip—hop songs.

And... and the bass line was so insane
and I was like, “What is that?"


The first bit of Western identity
I embraced was through music.

MAN: As we are watching
the nine o’clock news, as you can see,

Maya ls, erm, reading some mash-up book,
which is... What is it?

MA YA: It's called Black Skin, White Mask.

And it's about black power
and black supremacy.

It's about the supremacy
oppressing black equality.

This sheet tells you who took it out when.

And the first date on here is 1986

and the last date is what I took out, '96.

That‘s ten years,
but it‘s still on this page.

That's how much people read it.


Hey, Mika, what‘s up?

Hey, Mika, what's...

Ama! Ama! Ama, let me see you do
the butterfly in your butterfly dress.

Do the butterfly!

Do the butterfly!

Do the butterfly!




Out of the blue we got a phone call
from my dad and he’s like,

"This is your dad speaking.
I'm going to be in London tomorrow".

And we went to pick him up
at the airport.

Say something!

I hadn't seen him since I was...
11 or something.

In Sri Lanka I remember seeing you twice,
and once you gave us apples.

And that’s the first time
I'd had an apple.

And then, I remember the other time
you came at 3am

and you gave me two rupees
to go and buy ice cream.

And we still didn't know who you were.
We thought you were our uncle.

We didn’t know you were our dad.

But tell me about the wooden duck.

And? What happened?

MAYA: You're one of the founders of...

When did you found...?

Man, I'm 23.
He was something like 29

or 35 or whatever, when he was in the war.

He could've turned round and said, "Look,
man, this is shit. Why are we doing this?"

But they didn‘t do that, man.

There's no point in sitting here
when he's 50, and he‘s got no...

His whole life is like, at a dead end,
sort of thing. He doesn't know what to do.

So, now, he's talking about peace
because he can't do anything else.

He can't fight now.

He could have sent a birthday card
or a Thank You card or a Valentine's card

or Well Done card. Come on!

You know, a Christmas card.

Just one card between the whole family.

Just anything.

I'm glad for everything
he's made us out to be.

He's made us so strong
for what he's put us through.

He's made us damn interesting.
He's given us a bloody background.

I‘m glad he's notjust a
9 to 5 petrol-station owner.

You know? I'm glad he‘s notjust a doctor
or whatever.

OK, we didn't have wealth
and the richness and security,

but that's made us so strong.
We‘re so independent.

I actually feel sorry for him

cos he sacrificed everything for, like,
how many years

and went to fight for the country.

And he hasn't succeeded yet, or anything.

Are you interested in what's happening
in Sri Lanka?

Not just Sri Lanka, man. The whole world.
Africa and all them countries.

But you’ve got a direct link
to Sri Lanka.

No, I haven‘t. So what if I'm born there?
I'm Tamil, so who gives a shit, man.

There‘s kids dying.
I care about all of that.

Right, I’m gonna play you a video.

It's just at 15-minute film...
that the Tamil Tiger women made.

MALE REPORTER: this is the northern
frontier of the country’s civil war.

The Sri Lankan security forces have been
fighting Tamil separatists

and the Tamil Tigers have gained
a reputation as fearless fighters.

FEMALE REPORTER: Anhibir is a member

of the Tamil people '5 pro-independence

the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam,
the LITE.

MAYA: When I first saw this tape
of women my age,

you know, they cut their hair off
and they're in uniform,

I realised that would have been
my reality.

Like, what are they eating and like, what
do they do when they’re on their period?

How do they survive in the jungle?

Why was it me that got away?




I didn’t go to concerts a lot,
but somebody gave me a free ticket

then we got invited backstage
and then I met Justine.

And we just hit it off.

Britpop was at, like, the forefront
of British culture at the time.

But I didn’t know Elastica
and their music wasn’t my music.

Break a leg!

Break a leg!



I Riding on any wave
That is the luck you crave

I They don‘t believe it now
They just think it‘s stupid... I

MAYA: We came from
a different set of people.

She had no idea about the urban culture
and stuff that I'd grew up on

and I’d never been inside a house
in Notting Hill.


- JUSTINE: Seems a bit dark.
- Yeah.


I Boy, you're turning me inside out
And round... I

Why is it like this?
Yesterday, it was really nice.

JUSTINE: You look like you just
walked out of seeing a James Bond film.

- You look so great. Honestly.
— I look like Mowgli.

- You always look like Mowgli, but...
— It‘s just the fringe...

MA YA: She offered to let me do her video
called Mad Dog

and she gave me £100 to make it.

And I just wanted to bring the world
I was in into the world she was in.


I got some girls that I'd met in a club
the night before and we just, like,

shot in the morning under the Westway

and then it was, like, the first
indie music with some dancers in it.

I Don‘t need no credit card

I To make my charge complete

I Don‘t want you on your back
Ijust got on my feet

I Don‘t want the same boy
Another time... I

She asked me to come on tour and film and
I was interested in making documentaries

so I was, like, 'Yeah, cool'.


I I'm a sonic generator
It's as far as I can take it

I Aren‘t you glad that I can make it

I Oh, oh, in the money
Baby put your arms around me

I Aren't you glad
That you have found me... I


MAYA: I hated it.
I was there because I liked Justine.

And I was, like, 'You've got access to a
microphone and 1,000 people every night.

’Please use it to say something.’

Her band didn’t like the fact
me and her were so close.

And they were pissed off at me
and theyjust shut me out all the time.

TEARFULLY: Ijust wish I had someone
to talk to right now.

I guess that's why I‘m talking to
the camera

cos Ijust need to get this shit
out of the way

so I could just go to sleep.

You know, I‘m so pissed... off...

at people not really taking me seriously.


not really caring about what's going on.

And... I don‘t even know if this

is what I should be doing right now.

You're just fucked off
cos you didn‘t get enough attention.

- That's not it at all.
- It totally is.

I've gone through life without having it.

You've never had this little attention,
obviously and your ego can‘t deal with it.

- Please!
— All right, whatever.

- D'you know what I mean?
- Whatever!

Too many days have gone by with you
thinking shit and not saying it to people.


Iknow ou're ver sensitive.
, Y Y

Instead of me going home,

I'm just sitting there going, 'No, I‘m
bigger than that. I don't need this shit‘.

I know. You‘re bigger than I am.
I know you are.


Come on, Maya, let‘s not talk about this
now. Let's talk about it when we get home.

Going home. I'm taking you home.
I'm taking you home.

MA YA: You know what? Fuck talking about
youth culture in Britain,

fuck talking about fucking fashion,

fuck talking about all this
pretentious cliquey bullshit.

After 25 years, I 'm ready to go and
fucking put all the pieces together.

All this time I 've been denying
the life that I had in Sri Lanka.

I'm now living in London and sort of
caught up in a superficial lifestyle.

And a lot of people I know,
including myself,

were just constantly going around
and searching for meaning.

And Ijust began to wonder

what the alternative would have been
ifI lived in Sri Lanka.

Ijust wondered if you had, like, spare
camera batteries, that would be great.

But if you don't, then I'll just have
to... get round that problem.



Fucking "journalist" it says,
my occupation.

A journalist! I told them I was a...

just a stupid ten-minute
experimental film-maker.

Well, I said I do fine-art film and video.

They do shoot journalists.

I can apply for a different one.

I suppose ifI do it tomorrow morning...

Maybe it peels off.

OK, let's go.

I'm gonna go back to my school
that I went to

and go back to the fucking girls
that I hung out with.


I’m gonna go and film
that 21-year-old in Sri Lanka

because that so could have been
my reality.

Oh, you wanna hear my story?
I 'm gonna fucking show you my story.

I will show you my fucking story.

JUSTINE: Wait! Maya!
You’ve forgotten the camera!

That's a good one.
You nearly left without your camera.

- MAYA: See you later.
- Yeah.



I Big on the underground
What's the point of knocking me down

I Everyone knows
I'm already good on the ground

I Most of us stay strong... I

MAYA: Yeah.

Halin is my dad's cousin.

She takes care of all the young kids
that come to Colombo

as refugees from the North.
You know, my relations.

Hold this.

When I was your age
I used to live in this room.


You know, I haven't seen my family
for 16 years

and I'm having to spend a lot of time
with them off camera

and get them to be comfortable with me and
understand what my personality is like.

Because when they see me,
they straight away assume

that I’m a Tamil girl and I’m into
the same things as everybody else.

And they sort of suggest
taking me out to the shopping mall.

And it’s really difficult for me

to get across the point
that I 'm not interested in those things.

That’s not why I’m here.


SINGING: ...time to leave me, Lucille.

...a fine time to leave me, Lucille.

What are we gonna do?

What do you mean, a night check—up?

When ?

Everybody is scared to talk to the camera,
basically, about anything.

They let me know that whatever they say

might get in the hands of police officers.

No, but the experience I had when I was
like, six, seven, eight, nine, ten

was intense, ’cos. ..

So, that cancels that...

- That’s you.
- KOLIAN: Mm-hm.

And that’s my little brother,
and that’s me.

So, that’s two out of six boys are dead.

Wil/sy, he died in 1993

aged 22.

He was at medical school
and he was coming to visit his mum

and while he was waiting for the boat
he got killed.

I 'm just beginning to get close to

the things that I wanted to find out.

So, I’m gonna extend my stay
and stay for a little longer.

And spend two months as opposed to one
and see what happens.




SINGING: ...aqua blue






- STEVE: What is all this?
— This is a 505. I've got five of them.


I've got four of the 5055

and then I've got a four-track,
which is the little machine...

that I recorded on.

I never thought I was writing songs
for myself.

I thought I was writing songs for Justine.

You know.

I'll play you the first tape of songs
we used to make.


I think we were really
into the word "elevator".


Then I wrote this beat, here.
It's called Chicken Choker.

This was the first beat I wrote.


At this point we were just writing, like,
any old songs about random things.

And then, when I got back to London

I actually started writing about
the things that I wanted to write about.

You know?

My lyrics were just
things that was in my head

combined with me being obsessed
with dance, you know, urban music.


I I mashed up a coconut
Outside by the back door

I Should be closed
I'm eating up my mango

I Daddy was home
Huntin' up a wild boar

I Get your mum now
Cook up the whole lot

I We had no idea
We were cooking for commandos

I Our camp had videos made by Arsenio

I Show the films like Rocky & Rambo

I Role models from Hollywood to jungle

I We learned to fight using our heroes

I Aviator shades, gold rims
With the grenades

I Home-made tin weapons that ricochet

I When it's hot we all made lemonade

I Now we, we, we rock like we're macho
Like that's what we wanted... I

MA YA: I knew how to tell the story
because it was all there in front of me.

Like, when you walked into my room
there was photographs I 'd just taken,

tapes of the Tigers.

I found something
that I knew how to put together

and whatever I did, it was gonna pop
just because I was desperate.

I Oh, oh, oh, ho I

Let's see what's on...

The best song I’ve got today
has got to be... this.

I My hips do the flicks
As I walk, yeah

I With the good hair
I can do what I can

I Did your mama tell you about me?

I What did she say?
Don't go play there

I Gonna make that hot boy want me
Gonna make that hot boy... I

I 'd recorded four songs for Arular
and I took it to XL Recordings

and knocked on the door.

She tells it like
she knocked on the door and said,

” I hear you've been looking for me".
It was a little bit like that.

She did just turn up at the office
one day with this demo, this CD

with, like, hand-made artwork.

She seemed to have
a very strong vision.

That’s one of the things
I always look for

when I 'm meeting artists:
vision and ambition.

I'm gonna move all this shit
out of the way.

She kinda had both of those things
in bucket loads, really.

- We didn't take the reverb off.
- Yeah...

When I heard the first song,
I wasn't that blown away.

She’s like, ”I'll come back tomorrow
and play another song”.

She came back and played me Galang.

I London calling
Speak the slang now

I Boys say wha’, wha’
And girls say wha', wha'

I London calling
Speak the slang now

I Boys say wha’, wha’
And girls say wha', wha'

I Slam, galang galang galang
Gala gala galang galang gala

I Shotgun, get down
Get down, get down, get down... I


It was really home-made,
but it's not about production value

or, you know, how much money you have
to make it shiny.

Itjust has to come from a real place.



I had really strong ideas about what
music I liked and what made me dance

and what I wanted to say.

All of these things became Arular.

I want to tell you about another singer,
Maya Arulpragasm, born in Sri Lanka.

Her father
part of the Tamil Tiger guerrillas.

Her mom fled with her to England,
where Maya grew up in a refugee ghetto.

She's an up-and-coming hip-hop artist
and goes by the name, M.I.A.

I Blaze a blaze
Galang alang alang lang

I Purple haze
Galang alang alang lang I

I Blaze a blaze
Galang alang alang lang

I Purple haze
Galang alang alang lang I

I London calling
Speak the slang now

I Boys say wha', wha'
And girls say wha', wha'

I London calling
Speak the slang now

I Boys say wha', wha'
I And girls say wha', wha'

I Slam, galang galang gala
Gala gala galang galang gala

I Shotgun, get down
Get down, get down, get down

I Get a, get a, get a down get down

I Too late, you down
Dan dan da dan, da da

I Dana dana dana
Da na da na da I

a debut record on a $300 keyboard

and the assistance of some producers
in London.

Sold over 100,000 copies,
got picked up by Interscope Records.

REPORTER: She was creating a buzz
long before her debut CD was released

and that is in part because of the work of
a Philadelphia producer named Dip/o.

I wonder who paid for this
remote control?

This makes the shit hot.

It's the crunk button.

- MAYA: Where’s the crunk button?
- This one.

This one just has this really
amazing sound. Just the snares.


- MAYA: I like the last one too, though.
— Kind of space—love song...


M.I.A. is in the house,
so M.I.A., come on down!


MAYA: Oh, my God!

- How are you?
- They're loud!

Thank you so much.
You wanna come and stand over here?

- How are you doing?
— I'm good.

- It's a pleasure to meet you.
- Good to meet you, too.

- Thank you so much!
- Look, my boyfriend‘s out there!

- What one? Is he the one jumping up?
- Yeah, yeah.


That's true love, man. He's jumping up
outside. He should come in.

- We'll have him come in.
- Come in!

What does it feel like now that you're
getting recognition with the press?

Does it mean something to you,
or do you not really care?

Personally, I try not to think about it
too much.

But I think it's really great for, like,
being a Tamil, Sri Lankan, whatever.


It matters to them.
The Tamil girls are screaming.

They love it!

- It's gonna kick arse, the whole shebang!
- STEVE: Uh-huh?


- STEVE: Look at all this! Oh, my God!
- MAYA: That's the props. Walkie-ta/kies.

- That's the radio.
- Perfect!


STEVE: Hey! Go, Maya!

He's mad!


MA YA: There 's a lot of
cookie-cutter videos.

Pretty girls, clubs, cars, guys.
People are scared to experiment.

Your video should be a tool
to... bring to people

scenes and sights and images
that they’ve not seen before.

I I bongo with my lingo

I And beat it like a wing, yo

I To combo, to Colombo

I Can't stereotype my thing, yo

I I salt and pepper my mango
Shoot spit out the window

I Bingo, got them in the thing, yo

I Now what? I'm doing my thing, yo

I The sun showers that
fall on my troubles

I Are over you, my baby

I And sun showers
I'll be aiming at you

I Cos I'm watching you, my baby I


We're here at Coachella 2005.

That’s the main stage.

I Ah, that's how I write... I

When Arular came out in 2005,
Napster was happening

and a million copies got downloaded
for free.

Itjust blew up so quickly.

Like, so fast.



I I'm a fighter, fighter god

I I'm a soldier on that road

I I'm a fighter, a nice nice fighter

I I'm a soldier on that road

I Bring me the reaper
Bring me a lawyer

I I'll fight, I'll take them on

I You treat me like a killer
I never hate ya

I I'm a soldier on that road

I I'm a fighter, fighter god

I I'm a soldier on that road

I Slang tang
That's the M.I.A. thang

I I got the bombs to make you blow

I I got the beats to make you bang I

Ho! Make some noise.

Coachella! Thank you for having me.

It's my first festival in America
and I loved it.

WOMAN: One more!

- Congratulations! Wasn't that amazing?
— I know. A fucking encore! What do I do?


I I fly like paper, get high like planes

I If you catch me at the border
I got visas in my name

I If you come around here
I make 'em all day

I I get one down in a second
If you wait

I I fly like... I

You should repeat that,
so we know the length of it.


I All I wanna do
Zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom

I And the boom, boom, boom
And take your money

I All I wanna do
Zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom

I And boom, boom, boom
And take your money

I All I wanna do
Zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom

I And the boom, boom, boom
And take your money

I All I wanna do
Zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom... I



All right. So, I'll see you in a minute.

I I fly like paper, get high like planes

I If you catch me on the border
I got visas in my name I

SPIKE: What's that song about?

The stereotype that‘s attached to, like,
immigrants and stuff like that.

That they come and take the jobs,
the money and everything.

So, it was like a funny...
like a spoofy song about that.

It's like, all I wanna do is...

and then, ka—ching, and take your money.

- So, what should I say?
— OK, one two, three. I don 't know.

- Tell me...
- You’re the Hollywood one! Shit!


— Um...
- Hi, this is Spike Jonze

recording for PBS.

Uh, all right. Hi, this is Spike Jonze for
PBS and we are spending the day with Maya

and she‘s gonna take us out
to meet her friend, Afrikan Boy.

And she‘s gonna tell about the new record

she's been working on for the last year
that she named after her mom.

I Ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh I

Hey! How are you?

Like, all these new immigrant cultures
and stuff, that have settled in the West.

It's so deep and strong

and it's part of, like, the fabric of,
I don't know, any city.

But people feel threatened and scared
about it, or it‘s like a dirty word.

Yeah. A lot of people are, like,
scared to go against the grain.

Yeah, you can't rap about
being an immigrant.

It's too embarrassing for people.

- SPIKE: And how did you meet this one?
- Um, Myspace.

- Myspace?
- Yeah, she just found me. She found me.


I One day I went to Lidl
I was really, really hungry

I I went to shoplift in Lidl
Cos I had no money, money... I


MA YA: There ’5 always gonna be
something different about us

that isn’t gonna relate to a white
experience or a black experience.

There’s always something extra that's...

Something else that you have to go and do,
which is connect with, you know...

your, sort of, back-homeness.

Whereas Arular was like coming from there
and taking it over here.

Kala was definitely
the send-money-home record,

where you're sending the DVD box
back home.

Colour TV box and the microwave,
d’you know what I mean?

I was able to go back with some stuff
this time.


This is M, this is I, this is A.

Yeah, Maya, MIA.

MA YA: Making Kala was really fun.

Everybody went on the record.


Even animals! The dogs and the chickens
and the flies.

The kids that were playing in the yard.

One, two, three.


It was just like going back to meet the
kid I was when I was, like, six years old

and be, like, what would I want?

I would have wanted this person
to come and give me free key rings,

like the ones I had.

And buy me some candy,
throw the best party

and give me some money at the end ofit.


It was like doing a little Rubik’s Cube
and I just kind of, like,

started throwing more and more colours
onto the side of this cube.

I think you should play loud.


I went to practically every continent.

We kept working on the same song
in every country.

I started recording music in Trinidad.

You had to make it make sense to the
Trinidad/ans so, it would change slightly.

And then record some stuff in Jamaica.


We would have to adjust it again
when you bring him to Brooklyn.

I Can we go riding up a dirty track
Up in Laventille

I Will you show me before I make it back

I Somewhere I can chill I

The kid in the village
where we shot the 'Bird Flu’ video

and the kid in Liberia
playing on that playground

is exactly the same.

And they have nursery rhymes
and they play games.

They have an opinion about
what kind of hairstyle they want

and what T-shirt they're gonna put on
in the morning.

And they have dreams and they have, like,
an idea of what they wanna be.

Can you turn my mic up, please.

I Road runner, road runner

I Going hundred miles per hour

I Road runner, road runner

I Going hundred miles per hour

I With your radio on

I With your radio on

I Road runner, road runner

I Going hundred miles per hour

I With your radio on

I With your radio on

I Somalia, Angola,
Ghana, Ghana, Ghana

I Hey
India, Sri Lanka, Burma

I Bamboo banga

I This the bamboo banga
Whoo hoo

I I said bamboo banga

I This the bamboo banga
Whoo hoo

I I said bamboo banga

I Yeah, I‘m knocking on the doors
Of your hummer hummer

I Yeah, we‘re hungry like the wolves
Hunting dinner dinner

I And we're moving with the packs
Like hyena ena

I I'm a road runner

I I'm a world runner

I I'm a road runner

I I'm a world runner

I I'm big timer

I It‘s the bamboo banga
Bamboo banga

I I'm big timer

I It‘s the bamboo banga
Bamboo banga

I I'm big timer

I It‘s the bamboo banga
Bamboo banga

I I'm big timer

I It‘s the bamboo banga
Bamboo banga

I I'm big timer

I It‘s the bamboo banga
Bamboo banga

I I'm big timer

I It‘s the bamboo banga
Bamboo banga I

REPORTER: Rolling Stone put out
its annual list of the top 50 albums

and it shows the diversity
of modern music.

The number one album,
according to Rolling Stone magazine,

is notAmy Winehouse's 'Back to Black’,
it's ’Ka/a’ from M.I.A.

who’s British by way of Sri Lanka.


Fucking popular.

Fucking popular! That's wicked.

- Fucking popular!
— Fucking popular!

I I go to the club and I‘m popular
I stay at home and I'm popular

I I get phone calls and I'm popular... I

- I On Myspace, you know I'm popular I
- MAN: Fucking popular!

I Popular, I'm fucking really popular
Popular, I'm really, really popular

I It's hard, it‘s hard
It's really, really hard

I I'm popularI







Basically, Tamil Tiger boys entered
Colombo and they’ve bombed the airport.

This is Colombo. This is meant to be
the government—controlled safe zone.


I really felt as though
this is gonna be the end of the war.

It's in fact stuck in the middle.

The army and police
are scared of the Tigers

so they're allowed to shoot who they want.

And, because it's a war zone...
they‘ve got...

they've got the right to do anything.

"The most gruesome, that of Koneswari, was
a grenade was exploded inside her vagina

after being raped and killed, to remove
all traces of the sexual offences."

Hm? Terrible, uh?

Terrible is not the word.

And what this... bloody world is looking
at this and reading, I don‘t understand.

Nobody's interested.

The Americans are not interested.
The whole world is not interested.

The more I learn about things

the more I feel
I have absolutely no control

because it's happening in the masses.
That's the only reason.

It's happening in the masses.

I've got a feeling
someone's at my windowsill.

I'm gonna just go and investigate.

So, while I was in the room taping myself,
this boy...

This guy had been standing there
and watching, maybe 45 minutes.

Watching through the window you,
and also watching me through this thing.

And he got panic. He thought there is
something is going on behind his back.

And he wanted to...
He came and he asked me,

‘Do you know you're supposed to tell me
what's going on in this house', you know.

Today, I got on the bus with my mum and I
completely got surrounded by soldiers.

And they came in to the seat
and stood in front of my mum and me.

And every time
when the bus was, like, bumpy

they would fall on top of me
and, like, grope me.

And so, I started crying. And my mum
was like, ’If you open your mouth,

they will stop the bus.
They will drag you into the jungle '.

'And then, they’re gonna kill us both in
the jungle and no—one’s even gonna care.’

And I was looking around and I’m like,
’Who do I ask for help?’

Like, 'Who is that person ?'
And there’s nobody else.

So then, you start
looking out the window, going,

’Somewhere in that fucking jungle,
there's somebody who's fighting for me'.

I'm not gonna forget...
what I'm hearing over here.

It's becoming a part of me
and it's becoming a part of my life.

And I kind of feel like I‘ve opened
a can of worms

and I don‘t really know how to control it

and how it's gonna manifest
inside my head.



I miss home.

And I miss making curtains.

There's Steve, who's had his first day
at Interscope (GIGGLES)

You're on camera!

Whoa! Seriously, this is ten seconds?


Holy shit! That's crazy.

And you know, you do 20 minutes
and basically,

it‘s the equivalent of doing
an hour and a half in the gym.

How much does one of these cost?

And you come out so pumped, you know?

I I'm a Shake it to the ground
Bring it back up

I Twirl it all around
Yeah, you know what's up

I I'm a Shake it to the ground
And bring it back up

I Twirl it all around
Yeah, you know what's up

I Shake it to the ground I

In 2009, the biggest contradiction
in my life

was being a mum
who’s about to give birth...


...versus a famous person who's been
nominated for an Oscar and a Grammy.

And I thought that was the predicament.

I I fly like paper, get high like... I


But then, the war in Sri Lanka
began to escalate.

An aid worker says nearly 400 people
were killed by government shelling

in what is supposed to be a no-fire zone.

A no-fire zone, an area to keep civilians
safe as war rages around them.

These pictures,
purported/y from that zone,

show that innocent people
are still being caught in shelling.

The United Nations has been critical
of the Sri Lankan government

and the Tamil Tigers
for putting civilians in harm ’5 way.

The outside world has little knowledge
of what civilians are up against.

It's like the Tamil people are invisible.

M.I.A. is a talented singer, songwriter
and hip-hop artist

who has the rare honour
of being nominated, get this,

for an Oscar and a Grammy
in the same year!

Grammy, Oscar, same... That's huge!

Being the only Tamil, you know,
in the western media

I have a really great opportunity
to, sort of, bring forward

what‘s going on in Sri Lanka.

The more successful I'm getting,

the direr the situation
in Sri Lanka‘s getting.

I think the simple thing to explain it as,
is, under the guise of fighting terrorism,

there's a genocide going on.

REPORTER: A naked man,
blindfolded and bound.

His last human contact,
a kick in the head.


Extrajudicial killings by government
soldiers and paramilitaries

have been documented in Sri Lanka
for years.

But there’s never been evidence like this.

IS the government of Sri Lanka
engaged in genocide?

M.I.A. is a great artist.
But, sorry, I think she is misinformed.

And it‘s best that she stay with
what she is good at, which is music.


REPORTER: There is no doubt she
infuriated many Sinhalese Sri Lankans

when she reported/y accused the army there
of committing ethnic cleansing

and systematic genocide
against the Tami/s.

Anyone who's against the government

is getting assassinated, killed, jailed,
whatever - kicked out.

So, it's really difficult to get
that information, you know,

that you can share with the American
public, to go, 'This is what‘s going on‘.

And tell the American public why,

if you're from this island nation,
you sound like Mick Jagger.


Well, I'm just one of them! Like...

But that's not
what they all sound like, right?

No, but we'll never know,
cos they keep killing them all.

Really? They could all have Cockney
accents in Sri Lanka? That's interesting!

MA YA: They dismissed me.

M.I.A., everybody.

Good luck with that.
I know it‘s a difficult situation.

Like, go home, little girl!
They shut me down.


REPORTER: Tell us what you were
frustrated about with the CNN piece.

I wanna be, like,
checking the fact that...

Ijust wanna know why I was edited out

when I said there's a genocide going on
in Sri Lanka.

We talked for 45 minutes
and they edited it out,

made it about me and my song, and...

You're the first person
that we’ve interviewed that says,

’The piece was too much about me’.
People mostly want it about them.

I know. It‘s not about me because...

MAYA: People were just like, ’This is ugly
news. We don’t wanna talk about death.’

’We don’t wanna see blown-up babies.’
You know, ’Talk about Beverly Hills.’

It was very hard being two things at once.

I tried to do it
the way they wanted me to do it,

which is, learn the script,

learn the five sentences
you wanted to repeat in the news.

Go on the news and be successful.

But... I couldn’t.

I literally felt like I was exploding.


So, I did it my way.



Sit down and shut the fuck up!

Get off this bus trip!

Let‘s go! Go! Go!
Go! Move!

Move! Go! Go!




RADIO HOST: M.I.A. on KROQ, 106.7.

Every time we call that,
we get frantic emails from people

who say M.I.A. is a terrorist and KROQ
are bad people for supporting her.

Maybe there’s a connection,
maybe she’s sending money.

I don ’t think that’s a bad question
to ask.

CALLER: I agree.

MA YA: What they’re doing is dragging me
into it and associating my name

and my achievement and my career
and whateverI do

to, again, the same words:
M.I.A., Tamil, Terrorist.

Like, respectable news outlets are...
doing lazy journalism.

But when you put out Born Free,
that video,

you don't put that out without knowing
that it's gonna cause a stir

and a lot of people are not gonna like it.

Uh, what part of that didn't they like,
by the way?

- It was just ketchup and fake blood.
— Too gratuitous.

That was what blew my mind.

It was like the real execution video
I Twittered two months beforehand.

No one gave a shit.
No one even talked about it.

The real thing.
Yet when you make a video...

Two months later,
I refilmed that with some ginger people

with fake blood and it‘s the most
horrific thing people had ever seen.

- You think you're a victim of censorship?
— Yeah, of course!

What experience are we allowed to share
from these places

that makes you comfortable
and makes it easy for you to digest?

If you come from the struggle, how
the fuck do you talk about the struggle

without talking about the struggle?

STEVE: If she can get Maya on the cover,

why hasn’t she stopped them slandering
Maya before?

You have to see it like this.
If we do get the cover,

it’d be the first time
a Tamil's been on the cover.

We can be so blind.

Are they gonna do a smiley

when they get a dude representing
the Sri Lankan government

to come on TV the next week and say,
”Oh, M.I.A. She should stick to music”.

We need to know these moves.

They're not gonna give you
what they’re gonna do after.

You just have to be prepared for
the worst-case scenario.

If they're gonna fuck you over,
the worst thing they could do

is make you irrelevant
with your, like, political position.

And just go, 'This doesn't mean anything.
Yeah, whatever.’

'You're just another artist coming out
on Interscope this month

and we wanted a story on the musician.’


MAYA: We were just saying
you don ’t like technology.

- I don’t.
- It's a bit loud and it's nine minutes.

OK, good! All the better.

I like loud. I like nine minutes.

Oh, my God! Did you hear me screaming?

MAYA: No, I wanted to just leave you
in your element, there.

Really amazing!
Very upsetting, but very amazing.

ROMAN: You can say if you don’t like it.

I would say ifI didn't like it.
I think it's actually quite brilliant.

I really do.

- Thank you.
- You're welcome.

- MAYA: Did you like the song?
— You know I love the song. (LAUGHS)

REPORTER: The scathing profile in
the New York Times Sunday magazine

in which the writer Lynn Hirschberg
pointed out some inconsistencies.

REPORTER: M.I.A. comes off as a woman
trapped by a need to make

pseudo-important statements

but who comes off as little more
than an airhead and a hypocrite.

She’s about to marry
an heir of the Seagram’s fortune.

She’s living a pretty high-level,
cushy existence,

yet here she is, singing about
these rebel causes on her record.

REPORTER: The kind of symbolic object
the piece seizes upon is,

M.I.A eats a truffle fry as she says:

WOMAN: ”If people call me a terrorist,
let them. ” Something like that.

MAN: Right. As she crunches
into a truffle fry which, as it turns out,

Lynn Hirschberg ordered.

I Yo, what's up everybody

I This is M.I.A.

I I moved to Brentwood

I I got a baby now

I This one goes out to all the ladies
Whose values have changed

I And are looking for some stability

I And pilates on the beach

I All I wanna do is...
And a...

I Invest my money

I All I wanna do is...
And a...

I Check out my Monet

I M.I.A. investing in
Third-world democracy

I These shades
Were made in Sri Lanka

I Don‘t you dare
Write anything else funny about me I

They want to go,
’It doesn’t mean anything.‘

'This girl, everything she says is shit.
None of it‘s authentic.‘

'Her experiences are not authentic because
she’s a musician, or she lives here.’

You know, this shit. They feel that I have
way more responsibility

to be this, like, global
world poster child who's just like,

'Hi, I‘m the starving child
from the mud hut that made it,

and I’m always going to stay that way,
just for you.‘

You know, ’Just so you get the message‘.

This is from... I have to link this.

This is from New York Times
three days ago, on 8th January.

This is from New York Times... today.

31 places to go in 2010.

STEVE: So, what?
They’re saying now the war’s over

it’s OK to go back there
on honeymoon again?

MA YA: It’s fucked up.


I Yeah, man made power
Stood like a tower

I Higher, higher, hello

I And the higher you go
You feel lower


I I was close to the ants
Staying under cover

I With the nose to the ground

I I found my sound

I Got myself an interview tomorrow

I I got myself a jacket for a dollar

I And my nails are chipped but I'm eager

I And the car doesn‘t work
So I'm stuck here

I Born free

I Born free

I Born free I


I loved America.

Even the footage you have
coming up to 2001,

got, like, a pair of American Converse on
and an American jumper.

There's an American poster behind me.

I didn‘t have issues with America.
I loved America.

Yeah, and since then...

you know, they've been
chiselling away at me, bit by bit.


How do you manage an artist
who’s unmanageable?


I‘m opening this question out to the
board, which consists of me and you.

- DYANA: Jesus fucking Christ!
— What are we gonna do?

I mean, Maya, you’ve gotta give a little.
You’ve gotta trust a little.

- You’ve got to communicate.
— Dyana, can you manage me?


- Can we get a song on the radio?

Can we get Double Bubble Trouble
on the radio

cos it's the most radio-friendly song?
Can I have any of them on the radio?

You need drivers. It all adds up.
That’s how we get there these days.

Especially when it’s not, you know,
Katy Perry. You know?

Yeah, I'm gonna go back to school.
That's what I wanna do.

STEVE: What kind of school?

Maybe I need to be, like,
a nautical engineer

and design boats.

Or maybe Ijust need to work in the
capacity of rescuing refugees on the sea.

- Madonna rang.
- STEVE: So, you're in Whole Foods.


I'm in Whole Foods cos I was
in West London. I get a phone call.


- STEVE: People!
- And it was Scott.

Basically, Madonna wants to do a track
with me and Nicki Minaj

and she's gonna sing at the Super Bowl
in January and she wants me to do it.

WOMAN: Oh, my God!

With Nicki Minaj, too?
Oh, my God! That’s crazy.

Italian, Sri Lankan and African American.
Wow, that’s real crazy!

STEVE: So, what’s Madonna’s video about?

Everything American.

Haven‘t you realised? The candles
in this room are called Yankee Candles.

I'm dressed as a cheerleader
in a Madonna video

and it's sponsored by Coca-Cola.

- Is it?
- And it's about NFL.

I was scheduled to appear
in Madonna's video.

But I was already working on my own video.

And itjust so happened they both came out
the same day, within ten minutes apart.

Hey, America!

I L... U... V... Madonna

I Y... O... U... You wanna

I I see you coming
And I don't wanna know your name

I L... U... V... Madonna

I I see you coming
And you‘re gonna have to change the game

I Y... O... U... You wanna I

I Live fast, die young
Bad girls do it well

I My chain hits my chest
When I’m banging on the dashboard

I My chain hits my chest
When I'm banging on the radio

I Get back
Get down

I Pull me closer
If you think you can hang

I Live fast, die young
Bad girls do it well

I Live fast, die young
Bad girls do it well I




This is like being at school.
Back of the class. Back of the school.

Back of the line. Always the last one.
Really late. Still getting dressed.

I L... U... V... Madonna

I Y... O... U... You wanna

I Sw sw swag Shh
No one gives you this

I It‘s supersonic, bionic, uranium

I So, I break 'em off tricks

I I pray that it sticks

I I'ma say this once, yeah
I don't give a shit

I Don't play that stupid game
Cos I‘m a different kind of girl... I

The New York Giants just won
the Super Bowl,

but it was rapper M.I.A.
who has a lot of people talking.

She flipped off the audience during her
Super Bowl performance with Madonna.

That's why she got me in,
cos I can say the shit she can’t.

Exactly, it’s true! I'm the fucked-up
part of her brain.


Everyone give the finger.

WOMAN: I Every record sounds the same
You’ve got to step into my world

I Give me all your luvin'
Give me your love I

— Hi!
— Hi, we’re with the NFL.

- Hello.
- Hi!

We just needed to talk about that.

MA YA : Yes?

MAN: It means everyone’s
gonna be talking about it.

MAYA: Can Ijust get...?
We 're still getting dressed.

- Can we get just like five minutes?
— We're just waiting for my manager.

She's still changing her clothes.



We just ran out.

I need to put you on to her.

Sugu, you don‘t understand how fast
we dashed there, with bodyguards.

We got all the bodyguards to cover us.

WOMAN: Maya, Dyana wants to talk to you.

— Dyana!
— DYANA: Hi!

- Come here! Did you see me?
- No.

Did you see me on the stage, dancing?

- No?
- No.

BEN: What? We said, ’There’s Mommy,
there’s Mommy, there's Mommy! ’

I was crying.

You just wanted to leave and see Mummy?

Yeah, I don’t like the Super Bowl.

- You didn't like the Super Bowl?
- No.

(CHUCKLES) That's my boy!
Come here and give me a hug.

Well, the Super Bowl doesn‘t like me now.

They just stood in our dressing room.
They went, ’We're here to talk'.

We were like, 'What about?’
And they go, 'This‘.

BEN: People liked it.

It was pretty epic.

- What have I done?
- I think it’s cool.

That's what I do. I have a song out
this week called Bad Girls.

I think it’s appropriate.

Oh, my God! All right.
So, we‘ve done that.

WOMAN: Hold that down. Put your foot out.
Good boy! High five!

Dyana just gave me a bollocking.
She was like, ’Don't talk to no one‘.


Are people just gonna freak out at me
in the street?

STEVE: No, I think what Dyana was saying
is, this is a really special thing.

Which... as she was talking,
it kinda surprised me.

But apparently, yeah, it is.

REPORTER: What motivated her
to do such a thing? Who was she mad at?

Why don‘t you wave?
Just wave at everybody. Or wink.

FEMALE REPORTER: Where do you lay
the blame? Is it NBC, the NFL or... ?

- Or anybody else.
— Orjust flat on M.I.A.

Joining us to discuss this and other
topics, pro bowler, Josh Blanchard.

- Thanks for being with us.
— Thank you for having me.

- Did you see the show?
- I did.

- What did you think?
— A little shocking. It was blatant.

Everybody could see it,
like she did it on purpose.

It was disturbing to me and my wife.

Madonna has this opportunity
to be in front of the world again.

She looks amazing, she is an amazing
performer. We all love those songs.

And she chooses M.I.A.?
Not even an American.

Give me a break! Did you see
Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert?

They were fantastic! Why can ’t we have
some America in our football?

MA YA: I was centre screen
for approximately 15 seconds.

And they want 15 million for it.

It‘s worse than being a murderer.

A brown person...

standing up there,
who is not sucking dick

is more offensive...
than murdering someone.

They want me like Aziz Ansari. Like...

STEVE: What’s the official...
line from you on why you did it?

There isn‘t one.
I was like, ‘It‘s a spiritual gesture‘.

(CLEARS THROAT) And was it?

It was a bit insane, you know.

Seeing Madonna,
who I grew up looking at as, like,

this person who is supposed to be
a strong female,

be like bossed around by these cowboys.

You know. And like, 'spin around, bend
over, spin around, change your shoes‘.

You know,
'I‘m not sure about that outflt'.

They were sexist, misogynist, racist.
You know, they were all of these things

and I thought, 'Wow, if no one else
is gonna fucking do it‘. You know.

And be like... And own it...

And be like, ‘What is going on?‘

Then fuck all this shit, I wanna go home.

Yeah, when Mummy was your size,
Mummy drank this all the time.

— I want one.
- No, that‘s how I lost all my teeth.

- What does it taste like?
— It tastes like... It‘s just too sweet.

- What does it taste like?
- It tastes like medicine, actually.

If you eat it now,
you‘d think it tastes like medicine.

Ooh, look! Food!



- For me and you?
— Mm.

My dad.

PRESENTER: The United Nations
has said the death toll

in those final months of war in Sri Lanka
could reach 40 to 70,000 Tamil civilians.

A staggering number,
considering the size of the terrain.

Our first reading is by the British Tamil
artist, M.I.A., who speaks on behalf

“I was returning alone from shopping.“

"My husband was at home
looking after the child."

"I saw a white van parked in a lane
by my house.“

"Though I thought it‘s odd
a white van was there,

it didn‘t cause me any concern
at that point."

“As I passed the van, four, five men
got out and demanded to know my name."

"I started to scream,
but they put a cloth over my mouth

to silence the noise."

“I started to scream and yelled,
'You can't take me. I have a child‘."

"When I got to the UK,
I called my relative here

and she came to see me
within two days of my arrival.“

"I told her, in general terms,
some of the things that had happened."



"We started with my war experiences
and I was confronted by her response."

"And I told her that I‘d been kidnapped,
burned by cigarettes."

"She could see scars on my arms."

"And I told her that I was raped,
hit with a wire, head shoved in the water

and a plastic bag with petrol
put over my head, and kicked with boots."

"I actually didn‘t tell her everything
because she was already crying."

(WHISPERS) Thank you.

This is my first time
at something like this.

- So, that's why I wasn‘t really...
- WOMAN: An activist?

- I don’t know this world at all, so...
- You don ’t know the world of...?

- The world of behind-the—scenes activism.
— You did a goodjob.

I‘m the one that goes out and shouts
loads of stuff and gets in trouble.

It was very real and it was very human
and that’s what matters.

Thank you.

As a first-generation person
that lived through a war

came as a refugee, that is now a pop star,
what are the goalposts?

It’s amazing that in one lifetime you have
to come and figure out so many things.

But... I’ve made it all fit together.


The whole video is planned for one song
called What’s Up With That.

It’s all about refugees.

So, first verse, second verse... ending.

All the pictures you see are real,
of them actually trying to cross.

Everybody about them
like they don’t have a face

but there is millions of them.


Yeah, Jerry? We're just getting
all the green ones over there.

- All the...?
- Green ones. Those ones.

I need to keep the immigrant story
in all my work.

Always. Because that is
what I ’m trying to make sense of.

We’re used as a scapegoat for Brexit.
We ’re used as a scapegoat to build a wall.

But people have always mixed
and mingled and moved

and interesting things happen
because of it.

You don’t know. That kid could access
a 505 machine and a microphone

and become Michael Jackson.
You don’t know.



We ’re leaving. Back to London.

And I feel really nervous.

Kinda don't wanna go to the land
of The Spice Girls. I’m just not ready.


Subtitles by Screen Language, 2018