Star Rating:


Actors: Chris Blackwell, Rita Marley

Release Date: Monday 30th November -0001

Genre(s): Documentary

Running time: UK minutes

I wouldn't be reggae's biggest fan, would have only Marley's 'obvious' tunes on my iPod and my knowledge of the man wouldn't extend past the general. Does that make me the ideal audience for Kevin Macdonald's two and a half hour love-in? I could be: Can Macdonald urge me to rethink my stance? Can a newbie like myself come away admiring the man and music? The answer is yes to the former and no to the latter.

The director of Last King Of Scotland, State Of Play and The Eagle takes over the reins from Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme who were both touted to direct this project at one time. Macdonald takes his time with Marley, painting a picture of Marley's upbringing, the political and cultural climate of Jamaica in the forties and fifties, and how both they fed his music and lyrics. Roping in all he could – former Wailers, record producers, family members, wives and girlfriends all pitch in – the director speeds through the information-heavy interviews, reducing each taking head to a brief snippet at a time, obviously conscious of the film's length (initial running time was over three hours!). There's an organic movement to it, with each block of interviews bleeding into the next. In between are archive photos, old interviews with Marley and behind the scenes footage, including early versions of No Woman No Cry and One Love.

Does it need to be so long? No, but for non-aficionados out there interest is kept high throughout as MacDonald works hard not to let things flag. Is it an objective documentary? It is not. Macdonald touches on Marley's attitude to women – his wife Rita was forbidden to wear makeup and he had old-fashioned ideas on how women should behave – while son Ziggy and daughter Cedella both agree that he was a 'hard father' but keeps any real negativity at a distance. Questions like 'Why do people like his music so much?' and 'Why were so many women attracted to him?' are not of the probing nature. No, this is more about Marley's love of music and how he combined that with politics to preach peace. Seen through Macdonald's lens, Marley is almost a saint.

Although I left the cinema as much as a fan of reggae as I went in, Macdonald's Marley is a great introduction to the man. It's hard to gauge if it's the definitive documentary and how much of this information is out there already, however.