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DIRECTOR: Kevin MacDonald
CAST: Bob Marley, Rita Marley, Peter Tosh, Lee Scratch Perry and more
CLASSIFICATION: 10 MD
RUNNING TIME: 144 minutes
ONE LOVE, two sides of the story and more than three previously unknown gems about Bob Marley.
Like the famous MTV Diary tagline: you think you know but you have no idea. There are a gazillion documentaries on the most famous reggae icon of all time but the difference with this one is that it was executive-produced by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and Bob’s son, Ziggy Marley.
This, no matter how you look at it, means there is not a lot of room for a side of Bob that is less than flattering.
But that’s where you’re wrong. Bob was vulnerable, angry and incapable of a fatherly lenience towards his children. As heard from the interviews with Ziggy and Cedella – two of many of the children he had with former singer Rita – Bob was never one to coddle his kids. Ziggy even says he used to want to race them and as soon as someone said “Go” Bob would be sprinting like he was up against an adult and not his own child. As someone who has seen quite a few doccies on Bob, I haven’t heard that side of him before.
That’s one of the best things about MacDonald’s documentary. There are plenty of gems that would make you go: “I didn’t know Bob denied his marriage to Rita,” or “Bob has a half sister and brother who actually get to speak about him” and “Oh, so that’s the real reason why Peter Tosh left the Wailers.”
This is one of the most detailed explorations into the life of a man everyone thinks they already know everything about. And as expected, he can’t be divorced from his music. So telling the story of Bob Marley means delving deeply into his music.
Through rare performance footage, borrowed video from Emperor Haile Selassie I’s visit to Jamaica – a life-changing experience for Bob and Rita – and candid interviews with session musicians, his back-up singers, the I-Threes and close friends such as the ever-eccentric Lee Scratch Perry, Marley is uncovered – and just when you think you know this part, another layer is revealed.
With that said, though, MacDonald was so obviously enamoured of Bob that some parts of the documentary feel self-indulgent. He also stays too long on the performance parts that don’t always have clear-cut segue ways into the points he attempts to make.
I also wasn’t fond of the juxta-posititon of modern-day life with a man’s history. What does a group of girls in cut-up dyed denim and colourful weaves sitting on a bench in America have to do with anything?
He makes up for this, though, by allowing Tosh to say his side of the story – one that makes a heck of a lot of sense and even criticises Blackwell, calling him Chris Whitewell. This kind of honesty was appreciated.
At the end of it all, it’s easy to see why Bob is still so revered. This new perspective shows that he was fallible – only human. And that’s a welcome change from all the other documentaries about the man.
If you liked… any of the many Bob Marley documentaries… you might think this one is better.