Brit singer-rapper M.I.A.'s new long form music video may have been too violent for YouTube, which reportedly pulled it early Tuesday, but the controversial piece is worth watching for a number of reasons. Whether you're intrigued by its politics (redheaded children are systematically hunted down by the military), its director (Romain Gavras, son of Costa), or M.I.A. herself (whose new album hits in June), it's a welcome reminder of the power short form filmmaking can have, both as an artistic medium and as a breeding ground for up and coming talent.

Admittedly, however, "Born Free" is hard to watch. It opens as masked American soldiers raid an apartment building, beating its residents until they find their children. Arresting them on the basis of a shared minority trait equated with terrorism -- here, red hair stands in for the wrong color skin, ethnicity, surname, you name it -- the troops take the prisoners to a desert location where they're forced to kneel with their hands behind their heads. Graphic violence erupts as the prisoners panic and are shot down in vicious fashion, while the charging sounds of the 1977 post-punk song "Ghost Rider" by Suicide and M.I.A.'s detached voice pulsate in the background.

(Warning: the video features sex, drugs, and harsh language and depicts a young kid shot point blank in the head and others beaten and blown up in various fashion.)

Continued...

The cumulative effect is at once beautiful and unsettling, thanks to Gavras's gorgeous cinematography and documentary style filmmaking. (If you like it, The L.A. Times' Pop & Hiss blog points out that more is in store in Gavras's feature-length debut, Redheads, which stars Vincent Cassel in a tale of "two outcast redheads... on a roadtrip of hate, violence, and self-destruction.") I'm also a smidge enamored with Gavras's earlier music video work for the French electronic duo Justice ("Stress," depicting youth gangs on a rampage in Paris) and Simian Mobile Disco ("I Believe," featuring ethnic Romanis), which you can check out after "Born Free" below.


(Warning: the video features sex, drugs, and harsh language and depicts a young kid shot point blank in the head and others beaten and blown up in various fashion.)

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