I must admit up front that I’m not generally a fan of reggae music, nor do I have much knowledge of Bob Marley beyond the well-known. It’s a testament, then, to Kevin Macdonald’s new documentary Marley that it kept me as engaged and compelled throughout.
Chronicling his life from his early days until his death 30-plus years ago – featuring interviews from his closest family, friends and those he played and created music with – Marley is a thorough, exhaustive (though not exhausting) documentary filled with eclectic characters telling colourful stories about the titular man’s life and the impact he had.
But the traditional documentary talking-heads stuff is only part of the equation, as it also features a selection of rare, some previously unseen archive footage both of interviews with Marley and stage performances. Director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) skilfully mixes things up throughout the hefty 145 minute runtime, and despite that length it is never once boring.
This isn’t a case of making the movie really long for the sake of it; not a moment is wasted. Travelling the world, from Marley’s birthplace of Nine Mile, Jamaica to the US, UK and beyond, you really feel the scope and reach of the man’s influence. But not only the way he influenced music but transcending that to become a household name and even a force in politics – one sequence in particular involving two leaders of opposing political parties being brought together by Marley and his music is quite astonishing.
A good documentary should inform you about something, whether that is a lot or a little depending on your knowledge going in, and make you feel like you’ve actually learned something by the end of it. It is bursting at the seams with fascinating facts, intoxicating music (both in the performance footage and the backbone soundtrack) and a memorable array of people wandering down memory lane to give us an insightful, fascinating portrait of a music icon.
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