The problem centers on obtaining the rights to Marley's music for the film. Despite the fact that the film is being produced by Marley's widow, Rita, the sale of her book rights naturally didn't include rights to use any of the music. But one would assume, given the connection, that using Marley's music would be a given.
Not so. Because Martin Scorsese's documentary has already licensed the songs (and the documentary is being produced by the family owned Tuff Gong Pictures and Steven Bing's Shangi-La company), there is a great reluctance to license them for the movie. There is suspicion that the Marley family is using it as a negotiating tactic to up the licensing price, a claim their lawyer steadfastly denies.
The family members involved with the documentary claim they were unaware the movie would be put on the fast track, and believe the projected 2009 release will hurt the 2010 documentary. "All our efforts and support are currently directed toward the documentary," Ziggy Marley said. "We believe that this project is the best way to represent our father's life from his perspective, and any other film project pertaining to our father will be empty without his music to support it." Well, yeah.
In the end, this boils down to one reason -- competition. "Martin Scorsese doesn't want to go out with a competing project, and Steven Bing has made deals with companies that are now compromised," Blue Mountain Music (Marley's music publisher) president Chris Blackwell said. "The Weinstein project has put the documentary into jeopardy." And naturally, the Weinsteins want to be the first in the theatres, with the first biopic, a sales line that is ready made for trailer blurbs. Instead, Blackwell would like the movie pushed back to 2015, which is an incredible thing to ask of any movie.
Is there really a danger of Bob Marley overload here? I know I would be interested in seeing both projects -- my tastes favor a documentary, but I think a well done biopic would be brilliant. It seems to me that a Martin Scorsese documentary has enough power to draw an audience regardless -- and especially if the biopic is disappointing. No, what I find bitterly sad is that Marley's music is reduced to a commodity, and that the message of his life and work is utterly lost in a bunch of squabbling. It is not a celebration of the man and his music, but a race to get to the box office first, to see who gets to use what songs, how much they might cost, and what deals are troubled. What a shame.