Friday, April 20, 2012

Marley: Roots of the Legend

The following is a piece I originally posted on Magnifier.

Kevin McDonald's officially sanctioned documentary offers a fresh look at Bob Marley's complex and masterful legacy.

Bob the rebel, writing inspiring songs about freedom and justice for the oppressed. Bob the lover, courting women with songs and charisma. Bob the rocker, mixing it up with punks in London and the Rolling Stones in Kingston. Bob the Rasta, smoking chalice pipes and being tutored by Rasta elders. Bob the icon in death, revered by Hopi indians in America's Grand Canyon, island peoples in the Pacific and throngs of African, Asian and European fans. Released on April 20, Marley (Magnolia Pictures, Rated PG), a documentary directed by Kevin Macdonald (Last King of Scotland), offers the most comprehensive look yet at Robert Nesta Marley, O.M., in a two hour-plus treatment.

Watch the film now on Google Play; the superb soundtrack album is also available for purchase on Play.

Marley has the distinction of being the only official Marley family-sanctioned documentary, and was produced with cooperation from Ziggy Marley and wife Rita. The film examines Bob's personal background and music while charting his legacy through extensive interviews with subjects including colleague Bunny Wailer, Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and children Cedella, Ziggy and Stephen.

In his early years, Marley endured scorn from both white and black society in Jamaica as the child of a white British father and black Jamaican mother. But Marley found his place in music and released dozens of albums, including 1977's Exodus, hailed by Time Magazine as Best Album of the 20th Century. The doc features restored archival images, never-before-seen film and interviews, depicting Marley's rise from poverty in Trenchtown to global fame and untimely death from cancer at age 36. A cultural icon adorned on t-shirts, apparel, soft drinks and even earbud headphones, Bob Marley became a third world superstar and hero to poor people while also finding success with mainstream audiences.

Yet, despite all the accolades, the reticent singer was a mystery to many. In a statement, director Macdornald says, "[I was] just trying to be a detective and uncover the truth about his life and the truth about his character." The film does this masterfully, unraveling Marley's complexities and contradictions, while beautifully putting Bob the Legend in context. Watch it now, and check out the chock-full-of-exclusives soundtrack on Google Play