As a teen Bob moved from the countryside to the slums of Trenchtown, outside Kingston, where he was confronted by his mixed-race roots (his father was a British Marine). In the 1960s, his ska band The Wailers found success in Jamaica. Then in 1972, Island Records founder Blackwell started promoting The Wailers as a rebellious rock act, leading to global celebrity. Over the next decade, Marley's life included world tours, a re-formed band line-up and a series of huge hits. In 1981, he died after a brief battle with long-existing cancer.
Director Macdonald tells this story at a relaxed, almost Caribbean pace, letting the events unfold chronologically through reminiscences from interviewees and extensive photos, home movies, concert films, early recordings and newsreel footage. Marley himself contributes to the narrative through interviews he gave throughout his career. And along the way we begin to understand his deeply held Rastafarian beliefs and vividly relive a violent, politically motivated attack on his Kingston home. We also learn the truth behind stories of his womanising
He had 11 children by seven women, but he was actually quite shy: women pursued him, not vice versa. And Rita remained his loyal wife through all of it. Along with giving us an intimate look at his personality and relationships, the film helps us understand why he was seen as a messianic figure in the Caribbean and Africa due to the way he constantly challenged oppression and corruption.
Macdonald even takes time to show us exactly what makes reggae music so infectious.
This is a fascinating, gripping film, even if the thoroughness begins to wear us out. There's so much amazing footage that we can hardly take it all in.
Anecdotes are recounted with wit and personality, and Marley's prophetic zeal is captivating. If there's anything missing, it's the music: the famous songs are here, but only in snippets until a couple of extended tracks over the closing credits. Perhaps we also need a new concert film.
Run time: 144 mins
In Theaters: Friday 20th April 2012
Box Office USA: $1.4M
Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures
Production compaines: Magnolia Pictures, Shangri-La Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 95 Rotten: 5
IMDB: 8.0 / 10
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Producer: Steve Bing, Charles Steel
Also starring: Steve Bing