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Marley Movie Musing

It’s a cheap unimaginative way to start a review, but I’m going to say it anyway: If you see just one movie this year, please make sure it’s Marley.  Like most people I have his greatest hits album, Legend, on my ipod, and can recognise Three Little Birds within a nanosecond of the opening riff, and yet I had very little idea of the man himself past a cartoony image of a weed-smoking dread-locked Rasta.  By the end of the film it was clear though that it’s impossible to truly appreciate the music without first knowing the man.  I must be the only person on the planet, for instance, who didn’t know that Marley was mixed race (although I can now boast to have seen the only known photograph of his horse-riding, philandering, ‘Captain’ father), yet now I understand how it was his sense of being a social outcast that drove him to make music in the first place, and eventually led him to Rastafarianism.

The documentary is directed by Academy Award winning Director Kevin Macdonald (of The Last King of Scotland fame), which means it’s as visually engaging as it is interesting.  Marley’s story is told through interviews with the people who knew him best; from his wife Rita, and children Ziggy and Cedella, to fellow ‘Wailer’ Neville “Bunny” Livingston and girlfriend (and former Miss World) Cindy Breakspeare.  Through these candid interviews you gain a full and rounded insight into the whole man – his strengths and weaknesses, humanity and selfishness, his surprising competitive streak, and his defiant last days.  Like so many of our cultural icons, Marley’s life was tragically short (he died at just 36), but from fathering 11 children, to being shot, and performing a concert to celebrate Zimbabwe’s independence (and Mugabe’s inauguration) – what it lacked in length, it made up for in impact, significance and general eventfulness.

It’s incredible to think that Marley has been dead now for almost 31 years, and yet despite the ever-changing times and a lack of new material, his music has remained timeless and his popularity has continued to grow.  In an age of manufactured pop mush (grumble grumble), and over-hyped attention seeking wannabes (sigh), it was humbling to learn the story of a true musical legend, who gained his status the hard way.

I left the cinema not only with a much greater love and respect for Marley and his music, but also a clearer understanding of his cultural significance, and helpfully, a massive crush on someone who died before I was born.

Go see.

Video: Marley Trailer.
-Siam Goorwich

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