MARLEY: Kevin Macdonald’s Biopic on Reggae Legend – Review


Bob Marley’s face and dreadlocks are instantly recognisable and are often the subject of pop art and t-shirt prints. He became a legend in the music before he died aged 36 in 1981 but what do we really know about the real Bob Marley? Kevin Macdonald’s biopic is a must see for fans and educational for those who arn’t old enough to remember his career. The singer’s life has been widely reported and scrutinised but this documentary meets the people that influenced him as a person and his music.

Like most biographies of famous musicians, Bob’s life started out in hardship and poverty. A classic story of passion and talent overcoming all the odds and music becoming the “way out”. Beginning the journey in the Trenchtown slums and following his progress and obstacles. Marley’s birthplace and home were far from the Jamaican paradise we picture when we think of the island. His childhood home was a small shack, electricity and basic comforts were a luxury. Coming from a single parent family, little was known about his father, Norval Marley, except he was white and “always on horseback”. Bob’s mixed race heritage made him feel ostracised and was a direct motivating factor in his search to be accepted, in his case through sucess in music. The documenatry is also a musical journey, explaining the development of reggae and the sub-culture is created and the elements that make a track reggae in the first place. The lyrics in the songs add to the tale and are explained, analysed, played back to relatives to garner their reaction of their new found fresh perspective.

Oscar winning director Kevin Macdonald manages to put Bob’s family and friends at ease coaxing out excentric personalities and charming witty tales while fully capturing all the quirkyness of them as individuals and their surroundings. He even tracks down Bob’s first music teacher who remembers the first song she tought him. The testimony follows the reggae artist through marriage, affairs, children (eleven known descendants from seven different women), politics, exile and finally cancer. Macdonald uses a wide variety of archive imagery and footage of Marley’s life and filmed as far afield as Ghana, Japan, the UK aswell as the US and Marley’s home in Jamaica. There’s so much information that it could be information overload for those not familiar with Bob Marley to start with but for fans, it’s full of trivia, stories and most importantly music.

Ziggy Marley, Bob’s oldest son, sums up the appeal of the biopic in on. “I think this [film] will give people a more emotional connection to Bob’s life as a man – not just as a reggae legend of mythical figure, but his life as a man”

Marley will be shown at SXSW and will be in Cinemas in the UK on 20th April 2012 and is rated 15.

Watch a clip from the movie above.

Editor of Cult Hub and also an Actress. Join Genevieve on Twitter or take a look at her website or imdb page.

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