The life and music of Bob Marley (1945 -1981), rising from a Jamaican slum to become the world's most prominent reggae artist. He had 11 children from seven relationships, promoted the Rastafarian movement and played a minor role in politics both in Jamaica and elsewhere.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's got sex, politics, religion ... but above all, the Bob Marley story is full of music. Marley made reggae into Jamaica's biggest export, but what Kevin Macdonald's doco about Marley shows is that it was not a commercial ambition that drove Marley, but a humanistic one, in keeping with his Rasta beliefs.
Although the film is structured and made more or less along the lines of traditional documentaries, with archival stills and footage, snapshot interviews, beefed up with contempo interviews with family, friends and fellow musos, Macdonald and his editor have built a collage that really communicates in vibrant, cinematic language. Of course, it is about a musician, so rightly, it is wall to wall music.
Like many muso docos, Marley glimpses at the whole range of behaviours that went into his life, but Macdonald never judges or whitewashes. The portrait that emerges is rich with Jamaica and its problems as well as its verdant beauty, and with the ambiguities of a half caste who - appropriately enough - brings together two political enemies of Jamaica on stage for a glorious moment of peace and harmony at the end of his homecoming concert. This is perhaps my favourite scene in a long film that is engaging - even though a tad repetitious.
Candid interviews about Marley's behaviour are clearly filled with love and respect for the man, who was a shy youngster with great sex appeal.
In the course of the film we get a short course deconstructing reggae, a history lesson on Jamaican politics - and some revelations about his fans around the world, like Japan, who all know the lyrics of his songs.
We also see him at the April 1980 Independence Ceremony for Zimbabwe, where a heroic Robert Mugabe takes the oath to serve his people in the presence of Prince Charles and other dignitaries, along with Marley, who paid for his tour to go to Zimbabwe . How sad he would be today to see what Mugabe meant by his oath.
Marley was unqiue as a musician in many ways, but what we take away from this portrait of him is an image of gentle, genuine man, whose flaws never diminished his deep humanity. Even his wife Rita accepted his affairs with an understanding and compassion that reflects on him to some extent, at least.
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CAST: Documentary featuring Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley, Rita Marley, Cedella Marley, Jimmy Cliff and others
PRODUCER: Charles Steel
DIRECTOR: Kevin Macdonald
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mike Eley, Alwyn H. Kuchler, Wally Pfister
EDITOR: Dan Glendenning
RUNNING TIME: 144 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 21, 2012