Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Lately, one music video's been receiving a lot of attention. Though I love the video for the Lady Gaga-Beyonce colab "Telephone," I haven't discussed it on this blog, because frankly, I feel like it's been dissected on every other blog.

Rather, there's another music video that shares a few elements with the aforementioned short film that I would like to talk about today. The mini-movie that is roughly the same length and has drawn as much controversy as Gaga's video, but that you may have heard less about is MIA's "Born Free."

That's because the 9-minute long film from the UK-artist has been banned from YouTube. Why? Well, just watch the video below to see.

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

Don't have the attention span to watch a 9-minute film? I'll summarize. "Born Free" is less a music video and more of a political statement. The music part of the music video is secondary to the imagery. "Born Free" depicts what has been referred to as the "genocide" of the minority group of ... wait for it ... redheads. It is violent, to be sure. There is full-on nudity. And it is very graphic.

Does the explicit nature of "Born Free" warrant its removal from YouTube? A spokesman for the site has been quoted as saying, "On YouTube the rules prohibit pornography or gratuitous violence. If the content breaks our terms then we remove it." Though extremely disturbing, I don't agree with MIA's video being banned from the popular broadcast site's airwaves. I've seen some truly sickening stuff on YouTube, both in terms of nudity and violence, so I think the site needs to cop to the real reason "Born Free" was taken off the site.

I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that young, white red-haired kids are executed at gunpoint in the video. It's truly fucked up. And when I was first heard about it, I remember thinking, MIA, why? There's barely any music in this music video! I thought perhaps she was just trying to be reactionary. That's sort of her trademark.

Then I dug deeper. As the daughter of a Tamil revolutionary, she is a known political activist. Through some research, I found out MIA has been rather outspoken on the topic of Tamil genocide in Sri Lanka during the Sri Lankan Civil War. If you live anywhere other than Sri Lanka, you may not have heard of this genocide. According to some reports, tens of thousands of members of the Tamil ethnic minority were massacred by the Sri Lankan government in 2009 alone. The government denies such actions, of course.

Honestly, MIA did something really smart with "Born Free." I've blogged before about how redheads are a silent minority, especially in the UK. Showing redheads (especially children) being rounded up and killed in such a gruesome manner, MIA has created a call to arms. I've seen pictures of real executed children in Sri Lanka; let me tell you, that is disturbing.

People in the UK or US may not have ever heard of the plight of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka, but they know and can relate to redheads. MIA's "Born Free" is not shocking just to be shocking; rather, it aims to shock the viewer into a realization. By depicting a genocide targeting the red-head population, MIA demonstrates that this could happen to you; it's not just the concern of some faraway group of people. Now if only we could transfer some of the outrage over this video to outrage over the treatment of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

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