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Marley Doc Due for April Release; Wows Berlin Film Fest

Neville Garrick, Kevin Macdonald, Rohan Marley

Neville Garrick, Kevin Macdonald, Rohan Marley @ Berlin Film Fest

Premiering at the recent Berlin Film Festival, the new authorized Bob Marley documentary simply titled ‘Marley‘ was a smashing hit.

Critics at the festival were almost unanimous in their praise of the film, directed by Oscar-winning documentary film-maker Kevin Macdonald (“One Day in September”, “The Last King of Scotland”), which some have called the definitive biography of the reggae singer. It’s fully supported by the Marley family and Island Records including having Marley’s son Ziggy Marley and Island Records founder Chris Blackwell on board as executive producers.

“This documentary is the ultimate revelation of my father’s life,” said Ziggy Marley. “The family is proud to be able to have the world finally experience this emotional journey.”

Bob Marley Documentary

Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

The Documentary uses rare footage, archival photos, performances and interviews with family, friends and bandmates to tell the story behind the world known musician who took the music of Jamaica and the Rastafari Movement to the world.

It attempts to explore his whole life from the time of his birth to when he died at age 36 from Cancer from people that were actually there with him, his family, his bandmates and others. The film, as mentioned in the review in Variety from film critic Guy Lodge, touches on subjects such as how he was troubled by his mixed-race heritage, the bullying he dealt with as a child and breaking down the barrier’s surrounding his domestic life such as how his many affairs and children out of wedlock took its toll on wife Rita and their daughter Cedella.

Paste Magazine posted a great review mentioning “The film is fairly detailed concerning Marley’s songwriting and musicianship from his early ska days up through the release of Catch a Fire. After this, however, it skips through his catalog, choosing to focus more on his personal life, conversion to Rastafarianism, the tumultuous state of Jamaican politics, and his prolific womanizing—all of which are important elements of the artist’s character. This makes for an interesting journey, although music geeks will surely miss the behind-the-scenes insight about classic albums and songs that might have appeared.“.

That would be an interesting movie and mirrors comments I made about the Lee Perry ‘Upsetter’ doc. I doubt though too many people will complain about the film’s focus as it sounds very well plotted and the visual look of the film is said to be amazing.

The Telegraph UK posted a rather in-depth discussion of the film including this interesting bit about Marley at the end of his life.

Key interviewees include Bunny Wailer, a surviving founding member of Marley’s band the Wailers. Afterwards the narrative is taken up by Neville Garrick, the Wailers’ artistic director.

Garrick recalled Marley’s frustration at the toll his illness took towards the end.

“He had a stroke on one side so he couldn’t play his guitar anymore and I think that kind of frustrated him,” he said.

“Besides, he lost his locks, that all came with the chemotherapy. But being not able to function 100 percent, I think that really hurt him.

and in his review of the documentary, Telegraph film critic Tim Robey said:

“A documentary with scope and soul, this cradle-to-grave portrait of Bob Marley, executive produced by his son Ziggy, is an inner-circle affair, mercifully short on windy eulogising from his famous devotees; the only talking heads knew him intimately.”

Rohan Marley, in Berlin for the debut screening, recounts a story as posted in the LA Times of one time when he and his brother Stephen were playing inside the closed gates of the Marley estate at 56 Hope Road when two poor boys came by, and the Marley brothers telling them to leave, “that today they had their dad all to themselves”.

Bob caught the conversation, and angrily said “I’m here for the ones outside the gates,” and gave them some money telling Rohan to buy ice cream for the poor boys and none for themselves. They learned, said Rohan Marley, “we may call him Daddy, but we’re just one of the many.”

Bob Marley Football

Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

The film runs 152 minutes (long for some reviewers) and was originally started by Martin Scorsese for the Weinstein Company back in 2008, but he left citing “scheduling conflicts,” and was replaced by Jonathan Demme who also left in 2009 after he and producer Steve Bing had creative differences in the middle of editing. Two hugely influential directors leaving a project might have spelled disaster for any project but Kevin Macdonald soon stepped in to finish it up.

The North American premiere will take place at the SXSW Film Festival in March. Then, as reported in the The Hollywood Reporter, Magnolia Pictures snagged the U.S. distribution rights and will open the film in theaters and on VOD/ digital platforms April 20. VH1 partnered for first screen rights for TV and will include it as part of its Rock Doc franchise.

View the trailer below.

Follow updates on the film via it’s Facebook page.

Take a minute to listen to director Kevin MacDonald’s BBC Radio 6 interview from May 2011 below.


Marley Doc CoverFor nearly half a century, Bob Marley – the musician, the revolutionary, the legend – has influenced various populations at a global level that remains unparalleled. Marley’s passing in May 1981 not only left a huge void in what is perhaps modern music’s most spiritual and yet accessible genre, reggae, but also, as a testament to the star’s power, set the stage for the unprecedented, posthumous growth of his fan base.

The enduring nature of Bob Marley’s fame is anything but a simple pop music phenomenon. Just one index of it is the success of the Marley compilation album “Legend,” which is one of only 17 albums to pass the 10-million mark in sales (in 2009), continues to sell at the rate of about 250,000 albums per year, and is the second-longest charting album in the history of Billboard magazine’s record-keeping. With an ever-growing fanbase (as evidenced by his 33+ million roster of fans on Facebook and Twitter), his fame has elevated his stature to one of a spiritual beacon.

More than 30 years later, the undying messages that go beyond his music make Marley a cultural force to be reckoned with. His way of living was in many ways a political act on the world stage, across the world’s continents. Today, wherever politically minded youth seeks ways to find solidarity (as was exemplified over recent months by the popularity of Bob Marley’s music and imagery amidst scenes of protest in the Middle East and Africa and at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and its many offshoots), they find him to be an ever-potent cultural touchstone. And yet, for all the loyalty shown to the icon, and all the renewing excitement for those still discovering his legacy, many mysteries and unanswered questions have remained. A glut of concert films, biographies, DVDs and unauthorized videos already have attempted to explore his story over the years since his death, but the man himself remains almost as enigmatic as he is beloved.

Now, through the unprecedented, combined efforts of the Marley family, Oscar-winning master filmmaker Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, Life in a Day, One Day in September) and Shangri-La Entertainment (Shine a Light, Heart of Gold), many of those questions have been given an answer, and many of those mysteries have in great part been solved.

“The thing at the back of my mind,” Macdonald explains, “the question I wanted to answer in making the film, was: Why does he still speak to people around the world (because it’s clear that he does) and why does he speak to people so much more profoundly than any other rock artist or popular music artist….What I was fascinated to try to do in this film was to make something very personal. Who is this man? Why did he become so successful? What was the message that he had to give out to people?”

I've been involved in the Los Angeles music scene since at least 1995 going to shows, promoting, spinning records and running labels. Ska and Early Reggae are my passion among other things of course.