Scot Kevin Macdonald was an award-winning documentarian before transitioning successfully to feature-length fictions with The Last King of Scotland and State of Play - enough to take over this long-awaited documentary on the life and times of the late reggae star Bob Marley from initially announced director Martin Scorsese (who went with ex-Beatle George Harrison instead). The result, supervised by three Marley insiders (son Ziggy, creative associate Neville Garrick and record boss Chris Blackwell), is however a disappointingly straight-forward rundown of the musician's life and career. Its sprawling two-and-a-half-hour length does shade and bulk up Marley's tale, but is somewhat unwieldy for a theatrical release, especially since there is little here that Marley fans don't already know and a lot that is left out (like his ill-fated period as backup to Johnny Nash).

     It isn't purely a hagiographic exercise, though; there are enticingly intriguing references to his polygamy and the bitter break-ups with original Wailers Bunny Livingston and Peter Tosh, while daughter Cedella doesn't hold back regarding the lack of interest she felt the musician displayed towards his children. But most of the controversial stuff is left off, and the most revealing moments, thanks to an extraordinary wealth of archival footage painstakingly researched and integrated, lie in both Marley's early and final days. While there's little at fault here, the classicism of form and structure suggest that either Marley is a condensed version of a longer, serialized film or an object whose proper place is the small screen (some of the fades to black look far too much like inbuilt advert breaks). Either way, there's a sense it could have been so much better.

Director, Kevin Macdonald; cinematography, Alwin Küchler, Mike Eley (colour); editor, Dan Glendenning; producers, Steve Bing, Charles Steel (Shangri-la Entertainment and Tuff Gong Pictures in association with Cowboy Films), USA/United Kingdom, 2012, 145 minutes.
     Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 9 (Lisbon), May 17th 2012. 


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