Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Markus Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Rated PG-13 for drug content, thematic elements and some violent images
Director Kevin MacDonald (The Last King of Scotland) and co-producer Ziggy Marley bring forth the most definitive look back at the life of Bob Marley, in the new documentary “Marley”. From the formation of “The Wailers” and the comings and goings of different members of the band (including Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff), to Marley’s dealings in Rastafarian and how it bled into his Reggae music; and also from his controversial lifestyle punctuated by being a “womanizer” (eleven children from seven different women) to his humanitarian nature, this in-depth (two and a half hour) documentary will immensely satisfy fan and novice alike. I, like many other younger American non-Rasta’s, had grown up knowing Bob Marley for his more commercially catchy hits and from his countless depictions on a multitude of shirts worn by numerous Bay Area potheads. But, being a novice, going into this film I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing a two and a half hour movie about the life and times Bob Marley. A story I thought I knew, and had heard, countless times before. But that notion changed rather abruptly within the first few minutes of this movie. And by the end, due to the brilliant investigative journalistic nature of MacDonald which elevates “Marley” from an average movie to a MUST SEE documentary, audiences who see this film will walk out with an in-depth appreciation for the man who wrote some of the most poetic and revolutionary lyrics in music history. “Marley” is the no holds barred dissection of a particular subject (or subject matter) which fans of great documentaries will crave (and in fact, was nowhere to be found in the films of 2011). And for a documentary that was originally supposed to be directed by Martin Scorsese, after seeing what MacDonald has accomplished here, it would be hard to imagine “Marley” being more perfectly executed in anybody else’s hands.
What truly sets “Marley” apart from other bio-documentaries and A&E specials is how, in a very PBS way, MacDonald uses a seemingly endless amount of archival footage, as well as interviews with almost everybody (still alive) who had anything to do with Marley’s upbringing and his life as a world famous musician, as the narration. It was quite apparent that MacDonald had full access to any and all information he wanted, and as far as I could see, he thankfully took complete advantage of this fact. As audiences, we hear from Marley’s family and peers about how as a young boy he was an outcast because of his mixed-race. We also hear from notable Jamaican artists and record executives, who saw his maturation into a musician that worked to bridge the gaps, not only in Jamaica (during times of war) but nationwide as well. In this way, MacDonald enables audiences to intimately know Bob Marley on every level (get your mind out of the gutter).
But all the pure information aside, what MacDonald does very well here is not creating a documentary which totally sanctifies Bob Marley, much as many movies (tributes) do when celebrities with checkered pasts die. MacDonald captures recollections of Marley from both those who loved the man and those who thought him to be nothing more than a womanizing zealot, who was sadly not as politically motivated as he should have been.
Final Thought: Overall “Marley” is a brilliant example of an archetype onto how all biographical documentaries should be made. Grade “A” filmmaking, in conjunction with a larger than life subject (subject matter) is what elevates “Marley” into one of the most entertaining two and a half hour documentaries I have ever seen. If you are at all a Bob Marley fan (casual or otherwise) and if you are able to, see “Marley”, any way you can, before Hollywood makes a more commercialized (legacy ruining) feature film version of his life in a few years; starring Mekhi Phifer no doubt.