Reviewed by: Donald Munro

Marley documents the tragically short life of seminal reggae artist Bob Marley. It is made up of interviews with his surviving friends and relatives, contemporaneous news footage and other archive material and of course film of Bob Marley and the Wailers performing on stage. The format of the film is quite similar to other recent music biopics: short cuts of several speakers giving their viewpoint on an event or topic, interspersed with material from the archive. Marley's story is told in a very linear way from his birth in Nine Mile to his death from cancer. If you aren't familiar with Marley's life then you may miss the significance of some elements of the story - their importance won't become apparent until later in the film.

The charisma of the interviewees is what makes the film interesting to watch. Between their quirks and eccentricities and their obvious affection for Marley, they paint a rich picture of his life. Marley's personality doesn't come though strongly, however, except in the footage of his performances. The sections when any one person speaks about him are too short for a picture of him as a person to develop.

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Some of the material in the film is a little repetitious, and not much of it will seem particularly new and enlightening to reggae fans. For those who are not familiar with Marley's life some parts of the film will be quite an eye opener, such as the poverty and political situation in Jamaica, the details of the Rastafarian religions and Marley's highly competitive nature. However the documentary does not set out his place politically in the context of the Cold War where outside factions drove turmoil in Third World counties. His stabilising and unifying influence in Jamaica is a major part of the film but political violence in Jamaica is made to look like a purely internal problem.

If you are a Bob Marley fan then you won't find much new in the film. You will enjoy some of the interviews and the footage of his performances. The Jamaican landscape is evocatively shot and the footage of Kingstown is rich and vibrant. Those who are only familiar with his music will find this an enlightening and enjoyable documentary even if it is a little overlong.

Reviewed on: 20 Apr 2012
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A documentary charting the life of the famous reggae star.
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Director: Kevin Macdonald

Starring: Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Rita Marley, Cedella Marley, Junior Marvin, Lee Perry, Cindy Breakspeare

Year: 2011

Runtime: 144 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK / USA


BIFF 2012

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