Hackney Picture House,
23rd May 2012
Superb, beautifully shot documentary film charting the life and career of the legendary Reggae Singer Robert Nesta Marley. For someone so well known it was surprising just how much I didn’t know about him. Not only does the film feature an abundance of interesting, revealing interviews with Bob Marley himself, but there were plenty of first hand anecdotes from close family and former band members, giving the viewer a truly up close and personal insight into the man himself.
The biographical movie is a highly informative, educational and inspirational revelation of the life and times of a musical legend.
We learnt of his mixed-race upbringing, the background of his parents (White Jamaican Father Norvart, with Sussex, England roots) and Jamaican Mother Cedellia, the Rastafarianism that underpinned his outlook, writing and above all the way he lived his life. We can see he was a very social, “rootsy” man and whilst he rose to live in well to do, Hope Road, just doors away from the Jamaican PM, he didn’t barricade himself away from the people and it was pretty much open house at 56 Hope Road, with visitors all the time and Bob taking time out to talk to as many visitors as he could, discussing politics, sport, anything; not to mention giving generously to those in need. A far cry from the conduct of superstars today who would never entertain the thought of giving such access and financial handout to fans.
It was in many ways an inspiring film, tracking the journey from aspiring singer and writer, to becoming part of The Wailers, becoming hugely successful in Jamaica, then England and gradually the rest of the world, including America. I loved the discipline he had, particularly evident once he’d very fortunately survived an assassination attempt forcing him to flee Jamaica for London to escape the madness surrounding him. He developed a routine of healthy eating, morning exercise, football, then sitting down to write. Very focussed. Hard working. Seeing his life flash before his eyes made him realise how precious the gift of life was and he was determined to make the most of his time alive on earth.
The film was also quite tragic and poignant towards the end. In 1977 he discovered he had cancer in his toe and was advised to have his big toe cut off his. He refused to as it would prevent him playing the sport of football he loved so much. Life carried on as normal. He skipped his regular medical checkups and years later he was told the cancer has spread all over his body and is un-treatable. On 11th May 1981 he died of cancer. If only he’d had the checkups and taken the early advice he may well be here today. There’s an obvious moral there which I’m sure I don’t need to labour.
Talking of labour, Bob was a very active man, not only in the recording studio, stage and football pitch, but also in the bedroom. He fathered 11 children by 7 different women! Not so much “One love” or “no woman, no cry”; more like “more women, me nah cry!” Interestingly in 1982 he had three children in the space of 29 days! All by different women, including two born just 3 days apart in May!! Clearly he left behind much more than just a musical legacy!
Finally, what also stood out for me and will linger long in the memory is the cinematography of the film, which was simply stunning at times, showing Jamaica’s beautiful, rolling hills and country, with wide-angle and aerial shots.
If you’re curious to learn more about Bob Marley I’d thoroughly recommend this movie, directed by Kevin McDonald (The Last King of Scotland), with the full backing of the Marley family.
Tiemo Talk of the Town
31st May 2012
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