26.04.10 by Jeff

Born Free

Romain Gavras releases another controversial music video, this time for Born Free by M.I.A. It is similar in many ways to his video for Justice, however the violent gang roaming around this time is a group of soldiers. What is the message here? I won’t deny it is beautifully shot but I find it quite morally ambiguous.

mia born free music video romain gavras

WARNING: This video contains nudity and violence and is not even remotely safe for work.

Watch the video below!

Jeff Hamada is the Founder and Editor of Booooooom. He lives and works in Vancouver.

  • julia

    what the hell…
    its a great song and a good video though !

  • Ellie

    im torn between being kinda horrified, to finding this hilariouis……morals! where have you gone!?

  • Wow, the colors are amazing

  • so good and fortunately for me, we watched this all day at work…on repeat.

  • You find this “quite morally ambiguous.”? How is that possible? I’m having trouble not taking away a message from it… Rounding a particular group of people up, the actual song the vid is cut to, MIA’s sense of personal persecution realized during her youth…. It’s a provocative piece that spurs discussions ranging from genocide to anarchy.

    • sorry what is the clear message? racism is wrong?

      • i guess to elaborate on my comment – i don’t understand if it pertains to racism in general or it is an anti-american message – if it is an attempt at a political statement it is totally unsuccessful in my opinion. random news footage of violence would have the same effect

      • Meatwadius

        I have to agree. I don’t think it’s substantial enough in it’s content, or at least unambiguous or elucidated content, to have a real message. Sure, there’s the juxtaposition of being “born free” with the violent genocidal imagery of the video, but I didn’t feel it really amounted to much, which led me to see it as “controversy for controversy’s sake.” It just seems so brazenly simple and angsty as opposed to well-developed and analytical. Which of course isn’t a bad thing, especially in music, but I think here MIA is entering dangerous territory so to speak.

      • Not every piece of work needs to have an ultimate end attached to it. This is one of them. I’m surprised by how many comments I’ve seen around the web asking for the meaning behind this video and the reasons that support that meaning. When you’re producing a work or this nature, you’re asking the viewer to participate in the experience; i.e. how does this make you feel? what do you think about this, about that? do you identify with any of the characters? Through this particular creator/viewer dynamic, it’s possible that each person will walk away with a different experience and sense of meaning. That’s exactly why there’s an ambiguous nature to it. It allows for internalization, interpretation and response on a personal level. Each viewer experience may be different.

        As for the shock & awe value, while intense, it plays to the whirlwind media-based culture that’s international at this point, and the aspect of death in that culture. At least that’s what I took away from the violence. I also understand that there’s a buzz element attached to this kind of violence. While some may say that it’s gratuitous, it’s certainly achieving its desired response, as can be attested to by the string of comments here and around the nets. We are talking about it. It’s brought in blog buzz, media buzz, etc. and is promoting discussion. As I suggested in my earlier comment, discussion, in my opinion, is never a bad thing.

      • Whoa, sorry for the novel. Didn’t seem that long when I dropped it… Just got to work and not interested in working, I guess.

  • Sammus

    I absolutely love it — i agree with Matty J — There are so many messages to pull from it , it ridicules how arbitrary the characteristics we use to divide ourselves…!

  • thank you matty. You’ve gone around in my head and arranged my thoughts just right.

  • Doug

    High school level angst video done extremely well.

  • justin nelson

    wow. kinda bummed about the american flag on the soldiers. that last mine seen was insane looking. i think i liked it? i need to think it over. haha. very beautiful to look at, for sure.

  • richard

    ca m’en laisse muet… dur mais semblable à la verité

  • I loved his justice video, but was disappointed after reading interviews about his thoughts behind it. This video I think proves that any poignancy that “Stress” had was a fluke from an artist without any real insight into violence or human nature.

    • I was a little inflammatory with that statement I guess. but I definitely think that this video is a long way from being insightful, which I think is a pity considering the resources he had at hand.

  • Nalgasbailarinas

    I saw this with music from The Chariot (the audio output in my pc is not working)

    It was really intense.

    • Oh wow, I bet this video is amazing with The Chariot playing over the top. Good call!

      I love this video objectively and as a ginger freakshow. I really don’t get some of the arbitrary characteristics we use to persecute (too strong?) people.

  • sr

    kind of unsettling… neat visuals but still… don’t know the point… wondering if it has anything to do with “Kick a Ginger Day”

  • What the hell did I just see

  • the following is a comment on the Vimeo page from jorge gonzalez graupera in response to another user Edel:

    Edel – “ANY race or Nationality of people could be exchanged with the “gingers” and it wouldnt be far from whats happening now”

    I agree with you Edel (look at Arizona), but that is obvious. Too obvious in my opinion and a VERY cheap device to use and ultimately not even the point I’m trying to make. I think it’s the gratuitous, sensationalist violence coupled with a message that is trite and redundant that upsets me on a visceral and intellectual level. The hypocrisy lies in the disconnect of her speaking out against violence and then commissioning one of the most graphically violent videos ever made. The “giant mirror” argument I think is a total cop out. NWA did the same thing and at least it was funny because it was so over the top and you “got it”; it was cartoonish. You knew they were bullshitting (at least I did) and getting rich while doing it. MIA on the other hand takes herself very seriously, and she expects everyone else to so so as well. She’s commenting on subjects like human rights and imperialist oppression (as opposed to NWA rapping about guns, drugs and pussy). If she wants to fight those things then she should make something, with all that money her and her beau have, that’s intelligent and devoid of sensationalism. Instead she made a trailer for the next Keanu Reeves/Harrison Ford’s big Hollywood pic. She’s just appealing to the basest of natures in the masses.

    I completely agree with mr graupera – if it is somehow supposed to be an anti-violence message it is an utter failure. nothing about the way this video was edited suggests it was made by someone who wanted to speak out against violence.

  • You guys are over analyzing; this I’m afraid, is nothing more than a mediocre band trying to regain the spotlight…and it looks like it’s working perfectly.

  • No enough words….amazing!!!! a good piece of art.
    By the way, the meaning of the video don’t care, it’s more important our reflextion about it.

    Greetings from Chile

    Aguante Romain Gavras and M.I.A !!!

  • Dan

    I didn’t care for this at all.

    The violence is completely gratuitous and a cheap way to get tongues wagging.

    And why the racism metaphor? Is it meant to make the exploding children easier to swallow if they’re not actually black? Why not make a doco if that’s the message they’re trying to communicate?

    At 9 minutes, you’d think it would have made a point eventually.

  • Chris

    I think the main point of this video that a lot of people are sorta not getting or glossing over is the absurdity of red-heads being the target. Having a full 15+ man swat team, geared to the teeth in armored vans and “ho-hum just more violence” attitudes sent in to get a scrawny red-head is rediculous.
    Its a completely silly concept in this day and age to have hair color be the determining factor of racism. But that is the message that I think this video is trying to convey. That ANY trait is completely silly.

    As far as the violence, why not push it to the max? People who would be offended are probably the same people the message is intended for anyway (at least in American audiences).

  • oscar

    Gingers do have souls!!

  • I’m not sure that showing violence is a good way to help people to think, simply because violence usually makes you feel afraid and insecure. And you can’t think over when your thoughts are ruled by fear . Most of us live in democracies, however politicians are trying to manipulate our minds with fear, and nothing good result of this. That why I think that using the same lame tools as the people we pretend to fight is really simplistic.

  • I’m just sort of bummed they had to take something like Suicide sample for the song – especially because, what: the original song is about a comic book character? Fantasy? This whole thing sort of felt like a movie adapted from a comic book. The only weird thing was the ‘merican flags on the, “soldiers”.

    That was a pretty cheap political statement.

    Take out, “ginger”, put in, “mutants” and all of a sudden, it gets really campy.

    So, a campy, gratuitous video, song based on an amazing sample from a truly great song, by a truly truly truly innovative group (that would also *Try* to get in fights with the audience, if not just because they were sincerely screwed up (or, was it just actual nihilism?))

    Hmm… I think maybe people are right – there’s too much money being thrown in an attempt to make a point. Time to get a few people beat boxing and some cardboard.

    Culture, is sort of what I mean. This isn’t culture. This is re-applying intense and extremely volatile political issues and slapping it on some horribly over engineered song.

    And uh…. anyone see me in the bus?!


    -Mr. Ginger Head

  • juanpachanga

    so shooting a kid in the head on camera with unlistenable backing music is the cool thing to do now?

    this will prob get banned from every TV channel

  • Do I like the song: Yes
    Do I like the video: Yes
    But did I really need a music video to tell me that it’s illogical to discriminate against people based on physical traits that one can’t control: No
    I really think this was just an excuse to make a gratiously violent video with some Anti-American sentiment, get some press and to get people talking. In which case she’s succeeded
    Personally I believe the same message could of been put forth in a much more subtle way but then would a video like be getting so mush press and discussion, if that approach was taken?

  • Alex


    Yes, I know it’s MTV, but it’s got some good things in it. This video has more of a point to it than you might think. Besides, isn’t part of art reading into it for yourself?

  • lapetitefaon

    Beautifully shot but in response to Mary’s comments…I prefer when an artist is trying to convey a very clear message, to evoke a specific emotion/reaction/interpretation from their art. That’s kind of the point, TO SAY SOMETHING, not just ANYTHING, you don’t make a piece and be like “take what you want from this,” that’s the biggest waste of time ever. Art that is executed successfully leads the viewer towards the artists ultimate statement, and not much else. This was interesting to look at sure but at the end of it, it was like, okay, so what’s the point?! I could come up with a hundred different things and so could a lot of other people, and that’s the problem. “Shooting people for sport looks like a crazy fun time!” could easily be one interpretation, but something that is executed well should leave the viewer with a definitive message to ponder, this fails at that, the narrative just seems sooooo laaaazy.

  • Jeff…I think it’s safe to say this topic has been exhausted. Next please !

  • Joe Deez

    There’s definitely some shock factor when watching this video for the first time. It’s clever how they chose red heads as a/the most discriminated minority. Realistically they are a minority, but don’t get treated as harshly as others in the world. The scene of them running for their lives through the desert reminds me of the similar scene in Apocalypso.

  • Kat

    I don’t care what point he was trying to make. This video was fucked up and should have never been made. There is nothing redeeming about it. There was nothing beautiful. It was just disgusting.

  • Wow, amazing!

  • ginger bread cookies!


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