PLOT: Bob Marley is one of the most influential figures in music history. His words and music have touched audiences worldwide and continue to do so, years after he passed away at the tragically young age of 36. MARLEY explores the man through the eyes of those who knew him best. Family, friends and fellow band members talk about his life and the legacy he left behind in this remarkable documentary.
There is more to MARLEY than just the story of one of the most influential men in music. While Bob Marley is known the world over for his politically charged – yet positive and inspired – “songs of freedom,” he is considered by many to be an icon for equality and peace. He helped raise awareness for the Rastafarian movement and of course, reggae music. He also happened to be a fantastically gifted musician who was able to make music that was accessible to all walks of life.
Academy Award winning director Kevin MacDonald (ONE DAY IN SEPTEMBER, THE EAGLE, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND) offers up the film’s subject by introducing us to those who knew him best. A few of the selected interviews include Marley’s wife Rita, fellow band member Neville Bunny Wailer Livingston (The Wailers), and two of Bob’s eleven children, Ziggy and Cedella Marley. While MacDonald handles the interviews in a very basic and straightforward approach, as opposed to the current trend of quick cuts and odd angles, it places emphasis on the subject of the film in a very honest and personal way.
When Rita talks about the many other women in Bob’s life, she does so with a smile claiming that she was his “guardian angel.” There are times she would go to his dressing room to make sure the other women would leave. As angry and hurt as this might make most women, she talks about her role in the Marley legacy being more than just his other half. All moral judgment aside, her stories only prove to make her husband a more fascinating icon. Even when we meet another woman he loved, Jamaican jazz musician and model Cindy Breakspeare, it is hard not to feel a sense of warmth for both the man and his loves. This particular relationship is especially involving as it caused some controversy being that a woman crowned Miss World 1976 would be dating a reggae musician who loved his ganja.
However, some of the most touching moments comes from his daughter Cedella when she reveals the pain of one of her final moments with her father. Clearly she still feels such heartbreak from the loss of her father and what he went through on his final days. It is impossibly moving as she recollects a time close to his death, one that she shouldn’t have had to share, which ultimately was her last chance to have a final moment alone with her father. It went unfulfilled as that time never came to pass. This is exactly why MARLEY is as powerful as it is, MacDonald received full support for the Marley family and with that we discover the man behind the mythos through his family and friends.
Since this is a film about Bob Marley, it would be a sin not to mention the music. From his early days with The Wailers all the way through his successful career, his music is timeless. As a fan, it is hard not to be swayed by songs that spoke to generations and will carry over to many more. After all, Bob Marley’s Legacy – a greatest hits compilation – continues to sell at the rate of about 250,000 albums per year according to the press notes for MARLEY. Of course I do question why “Buffalo Soldier” never appears in the finished film, at least not to my ears.
Luckily the live performances captured here are utterly vibrant and inspired. The biggest disappointment is that it would have been nice to see additional live footage and to experience more of Marley’s dynamic persona on-stage. This would have made the film even stronger. Yet at a lengthy 145 minutes, this story is about the man himself and this truly is a thing of beauty. Fans of Bob Marley’s music have plenty to celebrate with MARLEY as well as fans of great music in general.