"Whether you are a fan of Marley's music or not, this is a must-see for anyone..."
As an ardent fan of Bob Marley's work, it suddenly dawned on me prior to seeing Marley that I knew so little about him - and therefore whilst hoping for an educational experience as well as an enjoyable one, Kevin Macdonald's latest project offered that and more, in a fascinating and emotional depiction of the life of one of the most iconic and important figures of the 20th century.
Macdonald recounts Marley's life chronologically, delving into his childhood and the prejudice he faced growing up in Jamaica as a mixed race child, as his father was an American Caucasian. We follow his journey to Trench Town, Kingston, and how he became involved in music, forming The Wailers at a young age.
Despite forming success in Jamaica, it took a number of years and dedication before making a name for himself in Europe, as he eventually moved to London. After a host of successful shows and number one hits, Marley became an icon worldwide, as his influence and importance proved dividend in the calming of political gang violence in Jamaica. His personal and family life is explored, as well his loyalty to the Rastafarianism movement - and of course a look into his untimely death at the age of just 36, following a battle with cancer.
Whether you are a fan of Marley's music or not, this is a must-see for anyone, as it not only celebrates his music, but looks into the political implications of his work, to also being a story of one man's dream to change to world, and how he achieved such a feat despite growing up in somewhat of a poverty stricken neighbourhood .It's a touching tale in that respect, but also highly fascinating and informative as you leave knowing much about his career and notoriety, yet it's fair to say that you don't leave feeling as though you know enough about him as a person.
That's not exactly a fault of Macdonald, as there is little footage of Marley talking about his life on camera, so much is reliant on what those around him have to say, but in that respect you can't help but feel that there is a degree of partiality. The interviews are intriguing though, as Macdonald gets access to Marley's mother, children, ex-wife and collaborators, intertwined with some astounding footage of Marley performing live, all presented with a fantastic soundtrack - mostly his own work of course. The joviality and charisma of many of the interviewee's are vital to the production also, as we get a flavour of what life was like for Marley amidst the reggae movement of the 1970's.
Macdonald's feature feels like more of a celebration of Marley's life and legacy rather than an unbiased account of his livelihood. This is exemplified in the fact that executive producers of the film include his close friends and family, which in a sense is quite negative as it means you only truly see Marley the idol, rather than look into some of his imperfections - and it may have been beneficial to have see that side to him too, and perhaps the families and children he had neglected. This is something that Julien Temple gets spot on in Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten for example, where we look into Strummer's faults as well as accolades.
Although perhaps the reasoning for a lack of negativity within the film comes from the fact Marley appears to be a man difficult to find many faults with. If there is one thing to take away from this movie it's just how big an icon he actually was and how powerful he was to the world, as he personified hope, presenting such a sentiment within his music. The somewhat biased approach taken when involving friends and family in the filmmaking process does have a positive implication also, as these people were incredibly close to Marley and their involvement means you know you are hearing personal stories and honest accounts, as you really try and get to the bottom of this revolutionary figure.
It's a brilliant piece of filmmaking, and the only thing preventing this from being a five star review is that Marley's life is intriguing and full of emotion as it is, and I therefore don't feel that enough of a challenge was posed in documenting his life in film to warrant top marks. Although it is more than a testament to Macdonald that this two and a half hour movie absolutely flew by. He could have put an extra half hour on at the end and I wouldn't have minded one bit.