Film: Marley (2012)
Cast includes: Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Rita Marley, Lee Jaffee
Director: Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland)
Genre: Documentary | Music (150 minutes) English (with subtitles as needed)
"He used to love singing," Bob Marley's teacher tells us. "He grew up in a musical family." In the early years, he lived in a primitive Jamaican farming village. Although Bob never knew his father, "Captain Marley" was of English descent making Bob "half-caste." "Was he teased?" they asked. "I wouldn't say teased. He was rejected," says a friend. When Bob was 12, the Marleys moved to Kingston -- more specifically, Trench Town -- a desperately poor section, where the only escape was to be creative. Four years later, Desmond Decker recorded a record, and Bob thought, "If he can do it, so can I." Bob's first record didn't sell, so he started over. Bob and his band, The Wailers, spent 2 years working on their sound. Their favorite practice venue was the local cemetery playing for dead people. Before Marley, most Jamaican musicians did "do overs" re-recording American rock songs. Marley wanted his own sound, the sound that eventually became known as reggae.
Marley's early success enriched his record company but not the musicians. By this time Bob's mom was living in the US, so Bob decided to join her. When he'd had enough of driving a forklift, he returned to Jamaica, ready to start over yet again. It wasn't until he became a Rastafarian that he finally felt complete acceptance, which he expressed in social commentary songs, such as "One Love." Marley's international breakthrough was in 1975 at the Lyceum Theatre in London. But when Bob attempted to connect with London's white Marleys, he was snubbed. A year later Bob Marley & The Wailers had a U.S. tour which ended badly, but Marley wasn't put off. Back in Jamaica, the band had the use of a fancy house at 56 Hope Road as their rehearsal space. "Sista, I bring the ghetto uptown," he told a woman who suggested that Marley's ragtag band looked out of place. Marley stayed true to his convictions, no matter what, including his belief that "everybody's supposed to be happy." On more than one occasion, Marley concerts became events to promote reconciliation for dysfunctional governments -- one event nearly cost Marley his life. "Get up. Stand up. Don't give up the fight."
As it turned out, the biggest threat to Marley's life was bad medical advice when a melanoma was discovered on his foot. Despite many rough starts, in just a few years, Marley became the Third World's first pop superstar. He was just 36 when he died in 1981. Today Marley is remembered in the US primarily for his music, but he was so much more -- unofficial diplomat and goodwill ambassador, for starters. The film shows us a more complex view of Marley set to an amazing soundtrack. In the US, Marley was just breaking through with mainstream audiences when he died. One 2.5-hour film can hardly do him justice but it's a start. When band members complained about crap gigs, Marley never lost his optimism. "If you don't start somewhere, you're not gonna get nowhere."
4 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
The Third World's first pop superstar who was much more than just an amazing musician.
Distribution: Art house
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative & entertaining
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