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HIFF Review: ‘Bob Marley: Making of a Legend’
REVIEW BY JASON GENEGABUS / firstname.lastname@example.org
“To tell you the truth, baby, belief kill and belief cure. … Everything is political if you think of it as political. I’ll never be a politician or think political. I just deal with life and nature. That’s the greatest thing to me. Life.”
— Robert Nesta Marley, 1973
True fans of the late, great Bob Marley won’t want to miss “Bob Marley: The Making of a Legend” when it makes its Hawaii premiere at this year’s Hawaii International Film Festival — if for no other reason than to see some amazing archival footage captured by Marley’s former girlfriend and collaborator, Esther Anderson.
There isn’t much of a message, or even a storyline to the 90-minute documentary, which blends clips from 1973 with updated scenes and interviews from many of the same locations filmed in 2000. Anderson could have just as easily called this movie “The Smoking Sessions” or “The Herb Chronicles,” as much of the Marley footage captures him in chill mode, smoking spliffs and waxing poetic about politics and religion. But even with the slight lack of focus, it’s easy to get caught up in the historical and cultural significance of what Anderson has chosen to share in this film.
(Especially entertaining is a clip of Marley sparking one up with Peter Tosh, then getting into a back-and-forth about why his Jeep’s engine won’t start — who knew Peter wasn’t just a musician back then, but a budding mechanic, too?)
Keep in mind that when all this was filmed, Marley had yet to realize the global superstardom that would eventually come his way. In scene after scene, he stands shirtless with nappy dreads that are just starting to grow, gazing into the camera with what seems like a mixture of amazement and annoyance. In one clip, Marley shows off his own “special effects,” while another captures a look that makes you wonder if he’s about to knock the camera out of Anderson’s hands.
Despite the poor video quality, there’s no mistaking the value of the footage and Anderson’s insight into Marley’s travels during the early ’70s. Viewers learn, for example, that “Get Up Stand Up” was based upon Marley’s experiences during a trip to Haiti, and that “I Shot the Sheriff” was actually inspired by Anderson’s quest to acquire birth control pills while in England with Marley in 1973.
But the most amazing scene, by far, is the Wailers’ very first rehearsal together. We see Marley, Tosh and Bunny Livingston show up at Hope Road in Kingston, followed by clips of Marley working out his vocals while strumming a guitar. Those shots and footage of Marley actually sitting down to write some of his future hits is simply mind-boggling to dedicated fans of the legendary reggae artist.
HIFF has just one screening of “Bob Marley: The Making of a Legend” planned. I hope it takes place in one of the bigger theaters at Dole Cannery, so as many of his Hawaii fans as possible have the chance to watch this film.
Click here for more coverage of the 2011 Hawaii International Film Festival.