M.I.A.’s “Born Free” Video: Art VS Shock Tactics

Yesterday, M.I.A. unveiled the clip for her new single “Born Free” on her official website, a video that we also posted on our home page; however, the video has been banned from YouTube due to the graphic content.

The clip was created by French director Romain Gavras, who was also responsible for the controversial music video for “Stress” by French electro-house duo Justice, which depicted a gang of leather jacket-wearing youths – reminiscent of the droogs from Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, terrorising the streets with random acts of violence and destruction.

SPOILER: In the M.I.A. video – which is a gritty cinematic nine-minute affair – American army officers bash civilians and gather red-headed boys in a paddy wagon, before releasing them into a field and shooting them. The ‘red hair genocide’ concept is a strange and disturbing one and is, perhaps, intended to be an allegory for getting revenge on British imperialism (hence the red heads?) or American racists or… who really knows…

Regardless of what it is supposed to actually mean, the video ends up losing impact because the director employs cheap shock tactics and in-your-face violence to get the message across. A child getting shot in the head, on-camera. American troops violently beating youths.

There is no doubt that this will be a video that will divide viewers: Is it a well-made piece of art with a strong message or is it simply another example of gratuitous violence used for shock value?

Watch again (NSFW)

PS what do you think about the new track as well? It ain’t no “Paper Planes”…

Image by: Christopher Polk via Getty