M.I.A.’s “Born Free” video too graphic for YouTube

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Photo from 'Louis Beche' via FlickrM.I.A.’s politically charged, short film-esque “Born Free” music video debuted Monday, April 26. The next day, Tuesday, April 27, the video was banned from YouTube for violating “rules that prohibit content like pornography or gratuitous violence,” reported MTV.

At first, YouTube required viewers to verify that they were over 18 before being allowed access to watch the video. However, after angry responses from viewers, the official version was removed from the site. Although you won’t find the official video on YouTube via M.I.A.’s US label, Interscope Records, or XL Recordings, the 9-minute clip can easily be found on other YouTube user’s pages, yet it is questionable how much longer those videos will last.

Like all controversial subjects, viewers are divided over the video; however, it’s not as simple as a ‘love it or hate it’ dispute. Regardless of whether you respect M.I.A for her confrontational political protest or detest her bold use of the US as the aggressor, this video is hard to watch, to say the least. The vérité-style video begins with a group of US flag wearing police officers in Los Angeles. After a few graphic clips of violence and sex, we realize whom these US uniformed cops are after—redheads. The captured redheads, who play the “minority” in the video, are driven to the desert, followed by the most disturbing scenes of the video—a boy is shot in the head before another redhead is shown getting blown to pieces by a bomb.

Despite the violence, some viewers are able to appreciate the aesthetics of the video. “Although M.I.A.’s video is so discomforting that I couldn’t finish it, the song actually works well with the fast pace editing of the video,” says Jennifer Kim, a UCSD Film Studies minor from Sorrento Valley.

While some perceive “Born Free” as purely a piece of art, many view the music video as a political statement about racism, genocide and terrorism. Furthermore, her blatant use of the American flag points out the abuse of power and authority, and that our own country isn’t always as good as we think. While some viewers appreciate her upfront use of the US flag, others simply take offense.

“I thought the American flag was a little too much, but she got her point across. Overall it was definitely an attention grabber and I thought it was really interesting, but it was just too graphic,” says San Diego local Josefina R.

There’s also the question of the song itself. While being bombarded with the harsh and explicit clips, it’s easy to forget that M.I.A.’s song is even playing, in my experience. The cops’ angry yelling, the sound of explosives, and the images in general mask the lyrics.

The viewing experience is different for everyone, so you may want to see it for yourself—but be warned that “Born Free” is far from your normal female artist music video. Please remember that it’s only suitable for adults and that viewer discretion is advised.

M.I.A., daughter of a Tamil revolutionary, worked with director Romain Gavras in creating the “Born Free” music video. If you appreciated this video, look out for Gavras’ upcoming feature length film—Redheads.

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