Released in theaters back in April, the long overdue Bob Marley documentary entitled Marley is finally out on DVD and Blu-ray. The film is a lengthy 145 minutes, leaving no part of Marley’s life unturned. Starting with his early days in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, we follow Marley from his move to Kingston, foray into music and early days with The Wailers, shining a beacon of light on one of the most inspired artists ever to be recorded in the history of music.
Director Kevin MacDonald reaches out to an ungodly amount of sources, most of whom knew Bob intimately. His family (wife Rita, girlfriends, and children, Ziggy and Cedella), friends, and bandmates (including Neville ‘Bunny’ Livingston) all tell Marley’s story, alongside various producers and leaders of the Rastafarian movement. Their tales are spoken with pure admiration and love, exemplifying Marley’s ideologies of peace, love and respect, and further cementing his legacy.
Key moments of Marley’s life are highlighted throughout: His struggles being positioned between two warring political groups; the shooting that injured him, Rita, and his manager before the Smile Jamaica concert; his return to Jamaica for the One Love Peace concert where he joined the hands of two political rivals two years later. Two days after said shooting in 1976, Marley took the stage, showing the world his strength and determination to not back down to his nation’s tormenters (“The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I?”) Through these events, we see Marley, the man, stripped down – his morals, messages and beliefs lighting his path.
MacDonald does a great job telling Marley’s story, masterfully blending others’ words with Marley’s own, and including interspersed footage of Marley in his element, both on stage and off. The director also examines Marley’s devotion to Rasta, digging further into his DNA and psyche. While the music remains in the forefront, Marley’s faith and spirit ride shotgun throughout the entire film.
One aspect that was perhaps glossed over too quickly was the not-so-secret revelation of Marley’s 11 children, all coming from seven different relationships. Wife Rita was always aware of what was happening behind the scenes, claiming that Marley was upfront about all of his actions, though daughter Cedella speculates that it hurt his wife more than Rita would let on. Everyone’s love and respect for Bob gave him a pass on this one, I suppose, since all around him knew he rejected the notions of Western society, thanks to his Rasta following. But there must have been some deeper drama or pain here, right?
Regardless, Bob Marley deserves 100% of the accolades he received then and those he continues to accrue today. I must admit – I didn’t know much about the man’s personal or professional life; I only knew the music before venturing into Marley. Thanks to MacDonald’s film, a proper portrait has now been painted, and I have nothing but admiration for the Reggae pioneer. Bob Marley will forever remain one of the most inspirational and influential musicians who, like many others, was taken from us far, far too soon.
Grade: ABob Marley, Kevin MacDonald, Marley, Rita Marley, The Wailers, Ziggy Marley