M.I.A., thedaughter of a Sri Lankan Tamil militant sympathizer, a very vocal activist herself,and a lightning-rod artist who was once banned from entering the U.S., has nevershied away from controversial imagery or strong political messages in her career.But in her graphically violent new nine-minute video for "Born Free,"she takes her messaging to a shocking new level.
The new RomainGavras-directed mini-movie is in fact so disturbing, we will not show it here,or even link out to it. But it's out there, including on YouTube (for now) and M.I.A.'s own website, and ifyou aren't too faint of heart, stomach, or mind, you should definitely seek itout. Unlike much of the pop-culture violence seen today in video games,"Saw" movies, and rap videos, the bloodshed in "Born Free"is not gratuitous; it actually makes a gruesome but important statement aboutwar, genocide, and police brutality. The video's ultimate intention is not to titillateor offend, but to provoke discussion and debate.
The vérité-stylevideo depicts members of a minority group being rounded up by U.S. soldiers (controversiallybrandishing a stars-and-stripes flag) and carted off to a concentration camp inthe desert; there, these marginalized victims are viciously beaten, chased whenthey try to escape, and, in the grisly case of one terrified young boy, shot inthe skull. (And yes, the shooting is depicted in unflinching, horrificallyrealistic detail. You have been warned.) It's all extremely difficult to watch,and yet it's almost as difficult to look away, because the message behind the violentimagery is so real and so intense.
Renderingthe whole production even more surreal is the "minority" group usedto metaphorically depict such brutality that occurs all over the world(including in America):red-haired males. Perhaps redheads don't reallyreceive such appalling treatment nowadays (except on the "Kick A Ginger" episode of "South Park"), but in real life many other minorities tragicallydo--and this video vividly drives that point home, without specifically singlingout any one army, ethnic group, or country.
It'sdefinitely a strong statement from any artist, particularly from one signed toa major label (Interscope) who also happens to be the daughter-in-law of EdgarBronfman Jr., the CEO of Warner Music Group, who some might refer to as TheMan. Kudos to M.I.A. for her continued bravery and political outspokenness inher art, regardless of whatever flak she may receive.