Having performed at the Super Bowl alongside Madonna, raced up the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Paper Planes,” and bagged a handful of industry nominations at the Oscars and Grammys, British visionary M.I.A. has lived the life of a musical maverick. But beyond the surface of success lies another story of a survivor’s endurance, and the new trailer for her upcoming documentary teases a glimpse into her life and evolution.
“I had to deal with the fact that I was different and I was an immigrant. In Sri Lanka, it was surrounded by civil war. My dad was the founder of the Tamil resistance. Music was my medicine. It just blew up so quickly,” the 43-year-old — real name Mathangi Arulpragasam — says of her early life in the preview, which also delves into her political and social activism in and outside the realm of music. “I lived through a war and came [to the U.K.] as a refugee that is now a pop star.”
“There’s a genocide going on. We don’t want to talk about death: We talk about Beverly Hills,” she continues as images of conflict flash onscreen, juxtaposed with shots of Arulpragasam on red carpets and in music videos. Still, the outspoken performer clings to her voice through the worst of it: “The worst thing they could do to you is make you irrelevant,” she admits.
Directed by Steve Loveridge and scored by Paul Hicks and Beatles guitarist George Harrison’s son Dhani, the film premiered earlier this year to positive critical reaction at Sundance, where it won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award on top of a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize. It is expected to make a bid for the best documentary Oscar later this year.
Matangi / Maya / M.I.A. hits theaters via Abramorama on Sept. 28. Watch the film’s first trailer above.