Matangi / Maya / M.I.A. ★★★½

From the moment it first screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the story around “Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.” is that its namesake — the iconoclastic English-Sri Lankan musician and general force of nature — is unhappy with the documentary that longtime friend Steve Loveridge has made about her. This critic was at that premiere, and remembers spending most of the supremely awkward Q&A that followed staring at the floor and praying for the sweet release of death. “He took all my cool out,” Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam said to the audience after bemoaning the film’s length (it runs a brisk 95 minutes, but watching yourself on a screen for even a few seconds can feel like an eternity). “It’s not the film that I would have made.”

Well, yeah. As even Arulpragasam seemed to understand, that’s kind of the whole idea. Once an aspiring documentarian herself, she knew — when she gave Loveridge a 700-hour cache of home video footage in 2011 — that he would use it to cobble together an honest, subjective, and occasionally unflattering portrait. She knew that the soft-spoken white guy she met at a London art school wasn’t going to make either a hagiography or a hit job, and that placing her story in somebody else’s hands might afford the film with the same degree of unflinching honesty that has always defined her music.

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