Verdict: 4.5 / 5
Several years in the making, Marley is a 2012 documentary film that tells the story of legendary Jamaican artist, poet, political figure, humanitarian, Rastafarian prophet Bob Marley. His name has become synonymous with reggae music, marijuana and dreadlocks, but how much do we actually know about Marley? Director Kevin Macdonald (from The Last King of Scotland fame) maps out Marley’s life; from his humble beginning in the village of Nine Mile, through his rise to fame, his exile in Europe and his eventual death of cancer in 1981.
Cool Runnings and Usain Bolt aside, when someone mentions Jamaica, you will be forgiven for immediately thinking Bob Marley. The legend can probably take full credit for putting Jamaica on the map. Yet, over the years Marley has been downplayed as a lice infested stoner who simply made good catchy music. This documentary attempts to set the record straight and gives an honest depiction of Bob’s life and music. His story is told utilizing dozens of achieve interviews with Bob Marley – discussing his beliefs, fears, visions and hopes – along with insightful talking head interviews with his family (wife and children), his past lovers, friends, band mates, and ex colleagues who are still alive.
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Raised in the slums of Trenchtown and Kingston, Jamaica, Bob Marley lived life as an only child with his school teacher mother, rejected by his white father. With very little education Bob rose out of a poverty-stricken Jamaica as an excellent musician and due to his popularity eventually found his way into politics. Macdonald also exposes the less familiar parts of Marley’s life – his affinity for beautiful woman, his complicated marriage to Rita Marley, his love for soccer, his relationships with his many children (eleven children from seven mothers), the root of his Rastafarian beliefs, his love for his country and his final years battling cancer. Unlike most documentaries about the legend, this one focuses on the man rather than the music.
As one would expect, the music in Marley is key to the documentary’s success. Macdonald digs up long forgotten demos and unreleased studio sessions with Marley. But it’s the concert footage that really gets viewer’s attention, showing the power of his music to draw crowds and spread ideas of peace. Even after all these years his message continues to resonate among the downtrodden today.
Call it propaganda. Call it nostalgia. Call it paraphernalia. But you can’t call it neuralgia.