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Review: Marley (15), City Screen, York
SHOULD you have missed out on Tuesday’s sold-out one-off screening of Kevin Macdonald’s documentary on Bob Marley at City Screen, there is no need to stand up for your rights.
The York cinema is now spreading the Rastafarian reggae trojan’s message in further shows of Marley (15) from today until Wednesday.
Scotsman Macdonald has previous form for documentaries, having made Touching The Void and One Day In September before switching to feature films, and he returns to his old territory with a 145-minute hymn of praise, backed by Chris Blackwell, the Island Records supreme who took Marley’s music to the western world, and Ziggy Marley, Bob’s musician son.
Macdonald should have gone deeper, his film could have been darker, especially in addressing Marley’s Rastafarian principles in his attitudes towards women. (He sired 11 children by seven women, and when asked if backing singer Rita Marley was his wife, he said ‘No’, because he considered he was not bound by such conventions).
Marley may be globally familiar but he remains a figure of mystery and contradictions too, partly because interviews are not plentiful and nor do they say much when the fug of ganja settles.
Macdonald is a little thin on material on Marley’s roots (old, horse-riding British colonial father; Jamaican teenage mother) but he is much stronger on Marley’s global rise with his ground-breaking brand of reggae, his charismatic, non-militant political impact at home and abroad; and his last days, once felled by cancer.
Most enjoyable, aside from the ever colourful Jamaican dress sense, are the reminiscences of producer Lee “Scratch” Perry and Wailer Bunny Livingston, while the disaffected Peter Tosh calling svengali Chris Blackwell “Whitewell” speaks volumes.
Rita Marley and Cindy Breakspeare, two of the women in his life, have much to say too (and plenty more can be read between the lines) in this enjoyable, but not wholly enlightening homage to a man whose idealism lives on as much as his rapacious music.