I have never been a fan of bio-flicks. Why would I want to watch a fictional take on someone’s life especially if I was around to witness it firsthand? Why would I want to watch Walk the Line, when I could just spend those two hours listening to Johnny Cash songs? Or watch Will Smith pretend to be Muhammad Ali when I can just watch the documentary When We Were Kings instead? Thankfully no one has made a Bob Marley bio-flick (yet) and with the documentary Marley, the DVD released appropriately released a day after the fiftieth anniversary of Jamaica’s independence, there really is no need for a fictional version of his life.
Like most suburban white youth, I got into Bob Marley in high school where Legend might as well have been passed out at freshmen orientation. It was pure party music that could anyone moving no matter what other genres of music they listened to, and you may even learn something while you dance. While Redemption Song remains one of my favorite songs ever recorded. Like many other artists before my time, I pretty much stopped at the greatest hits (I got about fifty of his songs on my iPod) and really did not know much about his life other than a couple conspiracy theories involving the CIA.
If you are like me, you will definitely want to check out Marley to get the full experience, even the Bob Marley fanatic will probably find something new including a few unreleased tracks including a gospel, piano based demo of Redemption Song recorded with Peter Tosh (which sadly is not on the soundtrack). The documentary, from Kevin MacDonald (The Last King of Scotland), follows Marley’s life from his ska beginnings in Trenchtown, to revolutionary, to his last days fighting cancer. MacDonald got unprecedented access from the Marley family, former Wailers like Neville “Bunny” Livingston, Islands Records founder Chris Blackwell, the former Prime Minister, a couple mistresses, Bob’s first teacher, and eve a singer / janitor at Studio 1 where Bob recorded early material.
Even at two and a half hours, there is not a wasted minute and you may even find yourself wishing it went over three hours long. There are also plenty of features on the DVD. There are extended interviews with Bunny (who busts out a pipe that was made out of a carrot) and another of children’s memory from Ziggy, Stephan, and Cedella as well as clips of people listening to a very rare track called I’m Loose, so rare that it is the first time even some of the closest people to him are hearing it for the first time. There is an 18 minute “Around the World” feature that shows how Marley is celebrated around the globe, even in places you would not expect like Tunisia, India, and Tibet. There is also an audio commentary featuring director MacDonald and Ziggy as well as a photo gallery and theatrical trailer.
Full Discourse Notice: This DVD was provided to me by BHI Impact for review.