Marley – The Documentary


Robert “Bob” Nesta Marley was and still is an international superstar. His death in 1981 cut his life and monumental career short but his music lives on and his popularity has grown exponentially. Not only did he leave 11 confirmed children behind, he left the legacy of bringing reggae music into the international spotlight. Bob Marley promoted the growth of the Rastafarian religion, that was before the 70′s, only known on his tiny island of Jamaica. His spirit has resonated through many cultures, generations and even armed conflict. All who love his music have their own reasons for identifying with the man; some feel his music is a universal truth and to others his music incites a sense of self-determination. Up until this point, the most detailed account of Bob Marley’s life has been chronicled through the eyes of Rita (his wife) in her book: No Woman No Cry and other attempts have been made in the past to document portions of Marley’s career as well.

Marley, the new documentary by Academy award winning director Kevin Macdonald is of course based on the late reggae superstar Bob Marley and displays in genuinely perfect balance the singer/songwriter and musicians life from the cradle to the grave. The goal of this documentary was to find out as the director put it: “Why does he still speak to people around the world (because he clearly does) and why does he speak to people so much more profoundly than any other rock artist or popular music artist?” This question has not been answered by or even asked in any Bob Marley movies this reviewer has seen. This film goes above and beyond that scope. Not only does this movie show the motivation behind Bob’s sound, as an audience we are allowed intimate views into the reasons behind Bob’s lyric writing, relationships, sports, religion, politics, family, his role to his community and so many other areas of his life. Interviews from people that knew Bob best are included; whether it be band mates, room mates, lovers or family; a new perspective is laid out on Robert Nesta Marley as the world has never seen before. Many of the people interviewed had their own individual view of Bob as a man; this created a process of evaluation towards the interviews to create a linear story that was substantiated by correlation rather than face value.

Vivid imagery, footage never seen before, audio that has been cleaned up and given new life; all elements of Marley are on full display and left me without a single complaint the two plus hours the movie lasts. Songs that have been heard countless numbers of times sound sonically enhanced; something that pushed the music to a new level and gave Bob’s music an even new light. The opening track from the film, ‘Exodus’ is exposed for the driving beat of the bass drum more so than ever. With a stroke of pure genius, advanced editing techniques were used during the montages; the photos were presented in a manner that almost animated still images to fill in for the periods that little to no footage existed of Marley.  3-d photo imaging is bringing photos to life in a new way and this is one of the first films on Bob to extensively use this technology. Even BBC recordings that are relatively common and the most wide spread are given new light not to mention the rare recordings that receive a superb clean up and put in context with the reason the songs were created. New, current footage of Jamaica is shot very well and shows the island in its many states. The flyer over of the mountain side village that Bob grew up at really presents his upbringing potently is another reason why this film is so unique. There is an element with the focus on the mist in the mountains that Bob’s soul is ever present in the spirit of Jamaica. Interviews are done in a manner that make the viewer feel as if they are with the person speaking and engaging in the conversation and not just being spoken to. Also, the interviews are not the typical standard backdrop and stool environments; these are given the treatment of putting the subjects in their own environment. This allows the director to evoke pure interviews due to the comfort level. The overall treatment of the documentary is above and beyond visually appealing as I had no choice but to maintain attention through the duration of this extended length documentary.

Marley opens up with a beautiful shot of fisherman off the coast of Western Africa. The establishing shot that follows reveals that the beach is directly in front of a colonial slave post in Ghana. From this point most Africans were sent abroad for the purpose of slavery. There is a stark reminder of the finality; the interior of the fortress’s door stated: “Door of no return”. From this doorway it is estimated that 60 million Africans were relocated against their will and forced to work as a slave for the rest of their existence.

Robert Nesta Marley breathed his last breathe May 11th 1981 and I thought the inclusion of Neville Garrick speaking about the lack of a will being purposely planned by Bob to expose the true personality of those closest to him was the most honest thing that could have been placed in that section. The footage of his funeral, the general feeling of wake and the joy the people in thousands had during the service brought this film to a stunning apex. You get a true reality check that Bob was a man who really knew that as much love as he gave into the world, he knew not everyone in his circles would feel the same once it was time to get money for the estate and Bob’s legacy, something that is universal to all dealings of money and family.

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