By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Kevin Macdonald is a director renowned for his uncompromising portrayal of events as they actually happened. His first feature “One Day In September,” about an Israeli team murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics, earned him an Oscar for Best Documentary in 2000. His second feature, “Touching the Void,” made another emotional impact and won the BAFTA for Best British Film.
The perfect choice to direct a documentary on the reggae icon, Macdonald’s “Marley” offers an impassioned biography of the musician before he became a star. Made with the support of the Marley family, the film features rare footage, incredible performances and revelatory interviews with the people that knew him best.
“I didn’t know what I was going to make at first,” confesses Macdonald during our interview at The Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. “I did know that I was not going to make a film about celebrities talking about meeting Bob Marley once. I wanted to make it intimate and personal, and decided that I was just going to talk to everybody I could, who had played a part in Bob’s life no matter who they are. At the end, the film was quite long,” shares the director.
Well-crafted and exhaustively researched, there’s a lot to admire in “Marley” for the film delivers a depth of information and insights that would have been impossible without the cooperation the Marley family. In the film, Bob’s wife Rita and his children that include Cedella, Ziggy, friends and musical colleagues, all share insightful memories of the legend who died in 1981.
Augmenting the film are even more interviews with a variety of other sources and speakers who have previously gone unheard. One in particular, Bunny from The Wailers, the breakthrough group that Bob formed with Peter Tosh and Neville “Bunny” Livingston was initially reluctant, according to Macdonald, to participate in the film.
“A lot of people didn’t want to talk at first,” Macdonald admits. “Some wanted money, but as it’s a documentary we don’t pay people. So it took a lot of negotiating and a lot of discussion with many people not just Bunny although he was the longest discussion. He loves Bob, who was like his brother. They grew up together and he admires him, but at the same time there is some jealousy, as there is in this business. He wanted to feel that the film would be fair to the legacy of The Wailers and won’t just be a film about Bob Marley the icon.”
A worthy portrait of a phenomenal man, there are also a number of other unexpected and otherwise unavailable revelations in “Marley.” These include interviews with Bob’s close white cousin Peter, who Macdonald says ‘nobody had thought to speak with before,’ and interviews with Bob’s half-sister, Constance, and also Dudley Sibley, the recording artist and studio janitor in Studio One who lived with Bob. Surprising truths about Bob’s life and relationships are also revealed. Whether it’s Rita speaking on her husband’s numerous affairs, interviews with Bob’s girlfriend Cindy Breakspeare, or the revelations that Bob had a bi-racial stigma, many personal details make “Marley” a full and rounded portrait of the musician.
“The thing that was always at the back of my mind,” recalls Macdonald, who was approached seven years ago by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell about making a film about Bob, “Was: who was Bob Marley, and why does he speak to people so much more profoundly than any other rock artist or popular music artist?”
A definitive record of the Bob Marley legacy, “Marley” is told by the voices of those who knew him best and is an incredible life story of the musician, revolutionary, and legend, whose music has transcended different cultures, languages and creeds.
“Marley” releases theatrically and on VOD on Friday, April 20th.