Marley: A Movie Review

Movie directed by Kevin McDonald

It is the rarest of figures whose life’s work was so passionately particular that, by honoring his own credo, he, in turn, spoke to the pulse of the world. This is not hyperbole. Director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) ends this enthralling documentary, as the credits roll, with a parade of nations and people continuing Bob Marley’s legacy, from murals and school choirs to custom clothing and activist rallies — all showcasing the breadth of his impact.

The film was produced with the consent of Marley’s family, and it doesn’t shy away from making judgments. For instance, his children recall a man who could be tough and competitive rather than a doting father. And his wife, Rita, who was also one of Bob’s background singers, conveys how she adjusted to Marley’s infidelity. Running at almost two and a half hours, the cadre of people interviewed coupled with previously unseen personal and concert footage provide a nuanced landscape of a revolutionary.

Born half Jamaican and half white, the movie enters the angst that young Marley felt being called “half-caste.” Born in Nine Mile of St. Ann and then moving to Trench Town with his mother at the age of twelve, Marley endured extreme “sufferation,” as one of his friends recalls.

Even the eventual name of his group oozes with lament. Their first manager recommended the name “The Wailers since they came from a wailing environment. Marley’s Rastafarian religious formation receives a respectable treatment which allows the viewer to better appreciate his courage during political upheaval and life-threatening circumstances. The ghosts of exile and outsider status that plagued Marley’s psyche, even as he inspired the masses, mark him as Jamaica’s ultimate tragic hero.

-Shaundra Cunningham

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