Wednesday, April 28, 2010

M.I.A.'s "Born Free" (Trigger Warning!!)

"Telephone" has got nothing on "Born Free" that much is certain.

M.I.A's most recent video is a super violent romp in a dystopic future.  The video has come under a lot of fire for its violence, nudity, and profanity.  Red heads are hunted down, brutalized, and systematically (and graphically) killed/executed.  A very young redheaded boy is shot in the head at close range Nguyen Ngoc Loan style.  Another redhead is blown up by a landmine in slow motion.  A chubby couple gets it on in the midst of the mayhem.  And f-bombs go off more than than landmines blowing up aforementioned redheads.  

It's a doozy. 

The 10-minute video directed by French filmmaker Romain Gavras was heavily influenced by Peter Watkin's Punishment Park (1971) and obviously references a certain episode of  South Park.  The video will be getting the feature length treatment (starring Vincent Cassel who I LOVE!), in (wait for it...) Redheads, Gavras' directorial debut. 

So what to make of it? 

M.I.A. is definitely trying to make a political statement... the references are obvious, insurgency, police and military violence, racism, genocide, take your pick...but is the allegory more powerful than the reality?  That is to say, what do redheads do besides stand in for racialized and occupied people? What makes redheads compelling rather just than actually taking on issues of American military violence and occupation? Besides the novelty anyway?

I guess where I land is here... if M.I.A was trying to make a serious political critique I would have taken it more seriously if I wasn't constantly wondering whether they were hunting down the redheaded men because they didn't have souls

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