Opinion

M.I.A.’s Kickstarter Radicalism

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According to a recent and widely publicized tiff involving a trailer leak, filmmaker Steve Loveridge’s blog, and Roc Nation, radical-chic rocker M.I.A. might be taking her flailing autobiographical documentary project to the masses via Kickstarter. She announced the possibility in a tweet over the weekend, stating that her project has been “black listed”:

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The meltdown began a few days earlier, with Steve Loveridge leaking the trailer on YouTube, where it was quickly pulled by the rights owner — only to have it reposed to Vimeo by an anonymous fan. When confronted by Roc Nation executives over the leak, Loveridge reacted in a cryptic fashion to the unfolding drama, backing out of the project over a series of emails he also shared on his blog. He was clearly none too chuffed about how things were panning out with Roc Nation, as he clarified in a final email to a redacted recipient at the entertainment company:

I really couldn’t give a flying fuck. Count me out. Would rather die than work on this …

In the face of this grim reality, M.I.A., for her part, has not given up, demonstrating the characteristic resilience of a zany revolutionary. Well, that or the tireless ingenuity of someone who has paired an innovative sound with connotations of bloody geopolitical conflict to form an indie-orientalist fantasy of a personal brand.

Though the Tamil Tigers, the Sri Lankan separatist group that she has expressed her support of, have yet to crowd-source their latest military campaign, MIA is eagerly tapping her fanbase for support in funding her madcap personal documentary project. Slate, naturally, is fully on board, though they seem unable to separate the possible viability of a multi-millionaire’s autobiographical documentary with the necessity for hitting up everyone on the internet for spare change.

As misguided creative types well-connected celebrities ranging from Amanda Palmer to Zosia Mamet have learned, Kickstarter can be a fickle beast when you appear oblivious to the privilege conferred by being an established entertainment figure. But just as the Sri Lankan government has learned to forgive former Tamil terrorists, recently handing them an old-fashioned financial kickstart, perhaps I’m underestimating the internet’s institutional memory. I’m sure M.I.A.’s documentary, which apparently features Kanye West and Spike Jonze, among other notable figures, could be great. But if she can’t get the project off the ground with the myriad recources already available to her, perhaps the real problem is logistical rather than ideological. The broader question then comes  sharply into focus: is Kickstarter a platform for under-resourced creatives or celebrities who can’t get their shit together?

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