Bob Marley’s life is very well known inside and out but Oscar winning Documentary filmmaker Kevin Macdonald’s “Marley” thinks otherwise and has enough surprises in it filled with haunting revelations to make it a real stunner. It helps that Macdonald uses breathtaking concert footage, archival treasures and interviews with almost everyone that has had an impact or was a friend to the legend. As far as Marley documentaries go, this is as full fledged a portrait of the man as we are likely to see in our lifetime.
“Marley” is a one beautifully crafted piece of work that can be enjoyed by fans and non-fans alike. From his upbringing with a single mother in Kingston Jamaica to the identity of his dad, Norval Marley, a white marine that was very much absent in the singer’s life. Some of the most fascinating parts of the doc have to do with Marley’s dedication to his Rastafarian religion. “White people have Jesus, we have Rhasta Fari” he says in an interview. This belief entitles the Rastafarian to smoke a ridiculous amount of weed each day. Rastas such as Marley used it to get closer to their inner spiritual self and believe in the wisdom that came with smoking it.
The stories found in Macdonald’s doc are highly fascinating. How Marley founded reggae through a single, unintentional chord. His roller coaster journey from Jamaica to America in search of a larger fan base. How he begged to revive Jamaica’s government torn gang war, bringing a country together through his music and one landmark concert that resulted in two sworn enemies shaking hands on stage in front of of hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans. His fight with cancer and how he continued performing on stage despite his fluctuating health. However, most memorable is Rita Marley, his first and last love, with whom he had 3 children and how she stuck with him until the end despite his well known infidelity. The film states that Marley had 8 more children with several different mistresses, a total of 11 children that all agreed for this film to be made. Yet, despite all these facts, Rita Marley’s memories of her partner are surprisingly beautifully remembered with compassion and -yes- a sense of true love.
The doc has a riches of archival footage including some magnificent concert footage of Marley and The Wailers performing in various different cities. We all know how it ends but Macdonald has ambition to burn, his documentary runs for a long 144 minutes yet the running time feels needed for it would have probably been impossible to truly depict a life this grandiose and impressive in a shorter amount of time. Macdonald, a Scottish born filmmaker, who’s been mixing it up lately with feature films (“The Last King Of Scotland”, “State Of Play”) and documentaries (“One Day In September”, “Touching The Void”) has already won one Oscar, he is almost -at least- guaranteed a nomination for Best Documentary with this one and judging by the contenders, his biggest comptetion will be well received films such as “The Central Park Five” and “The Queen Of Versailles”.