by Tony Medley
OK for children.
When I first
went to the Virgin Islands to conduct business there several decades
ago, I was warned about the inhabitants' calypso patois. After I
arrived, while it was sometimes difficult to comprehend, it was musical
to listen to. Whenever they spoke I felt as if I were at a concert. It
was more than charming.
about Reggae singer/songwriter Bob Marley, directed by Kevin Macdonald,
is set mostly in Marley's native Jamaica. The story is told through
interviews with the people who knew him best and archival footage. They
all speak the Jamaican patois. Because some of their accents are so
heavy, sometimes what they say is shown in subtitles, as if they were
speaking a foreign language. I felt that all of the dialogue should have
been subtitled because it is extremely difficult to understand. Even so,
it is magical to listen to them speak.
Made with the
unprecedented cooperation of the Marley family this is as complete a
biography as you could expect. It gives a little background of Marley's
parents and grandparents and then shows something of his childhood in a
The first part
of the film is narrated through interviews with Neville "Bunny"
Livingston, the only survivor of The Wailers, the breakthrough group
Marley formed early in his career with Bunny and Peter Tosh, who tells
Marley's story from 1961 through 1973. Neville Garrick, the wailers
artistic director, who was with Marley through the remainder of his life
takes over after Bunny left The Wailers in 1973 when he split from the
McDonald's task difficult is that there is no archival film footage of
The Wailers performances through 1973, since they were just a local
Jamaican band. The story is told using archival photographs with
Marley's music as a background. Also interviewed is Marley's wife and
several of his girlfriends, including Miss World.
Marley was of
mixed race; his father was white and his mother was black, and several
of his close friends explained that that was a stigma that Marley felt
deeply. The film also traces his belief in Rastafarianism and how it
influenced his life.
McDonald does an
exceptional job of presenting Marley in a way that the audience gets to
know him. He became a huge political force in Jamaica and this is also
reflected in the film. But he wasn't perfect. He had skewed morality,
fathering 11 children with seven different women. His daughter by his
wife displays how much she was hurt by his relationship with her by her
attitude in being interviewed for the film.
This is a
fascinating tale told by people who know how to tell a story,
accompanied by wonderful music. My main objection to the film is that
Marley's music is shown in short clips, instead of complete songs. But
that's a minor criticism, and he wrote so much music that the film is
filled with it. You get to know Bob Marley, but you don't get to know
his music, and that's a shame.