How was everyone’s weekend? I most definitely enjoyed the holiday weekend, and hope you all enjoyed yours too, long or otherwise! One of the highlights of my weekend? Sunday night, when a couple of girlfriends and I hit up the screening of Marley, the documentary on Bob Marley’s life, directed by Kevin MacDonald.
Marley’s official release date was April 20th, but it didn’t arrive in Canada until this month – first for the Hot Docs Documentary Festival, and then in regular release at Bloor Cinema at Bloor and Bathurst. Because I missed the Hot Docs screening, I made sure, come hell or high water, I was seeing this film this weekend. Ideally, I would have loved to be back in Jamaica, watching the film in Emancipation Park like my blogging homegirl Irie Diva did. However, a beautiful Toronto night with my homies wasn’t so bad either! The ladies and I trekked down to Bloor Cinema, got our tickets and popcorn, and got ready for the show.
I’ve written before about how much I love Bob Marley, his music, and his impact on the world. I thought I knew pretty much everything there was to know about Bob, but this documentary opened my eyes to so much more. I won’t rehash the entire film, but wanted to share a few key moments that struck me:
The rejection from his father’s family: Bob’s father was an Englishman named Norval Marley, who left Bob and his mother shortly after Bob was born. The Marley’s remained a powerful, business-minded family in Jamaica. A story was shared about how Bob once went to his paternal uncle to ask for money to buy a car, which would help him distribute his records. He was harshly turned away and rejected by the family, and never received any kind of support or recognition from them. Bob’s song “Cornerstone” was inspired by this incident (lyrics: the stone that the builder refused will always be the head cornerstone…). Norval had other children and families aside from Bob and his mother Cedella, and Bob’s half-sister was interviewed for the documentary. When that song was played for her, and the significance explained, you could see the shared hurt in her eyes. She was also rejected by the Marleys, and made a comment about how Bob was never good enough for the Marley family, but now he was THE Marley, and the world cared not for the ones who rejected him in the past.
Bob’s role as a father: Bob had 11 children in total from 7 different relationships. History repeating itself, perhaps? Ziggy Marley (one of the executive producers of the film) and his sister Cedella spoke of the relationship they had with their father, which seemed strained yet loving at the same time. A lot of what they talked about reminded me of my own relationship with my dad, which brought tears to my eyes. I could especially relate to Cedella, who was obviously hurt – but the love she held for her father couldn’t be denied. I could relate to being the child of a man who perhaps didn’t know how to be a father, or who only knew how to be loving as he was loved. I don’t know…but it hit me.
Bob’s cancer treatment: Bob’s exposure to cancer started with a toe injury, which revealed melanoma. Through a combination of Bob’s own resistance at some of the proposed treatment methods, and a complete lack of attention by the people around him, Bob’s cancer ravaged his body and took him away too soon. I was shocked when Chris Blackwell, president of Island Records, said that he “forgot” about Bob’s melanoma diagnosis. I guess when one of the biggest acts in the world is making money for you, you don’t remember these pesky little details…but anyways. I knew this segment was going to be hard for me, what with my cousin’s passing and my own dalliance with the big C word lately. I can never imagine being in the position to hear “I’m sorry – there’s nothing more we can do for you.” Bob sought treatment from a holistic doctor in Germany after being told Western medicine could do nothing. When the documentary covered the story of how he was again told, “there’s nothing more”, my spirit was crushed. I was reliving my cousin’s battle. I was reigniting my own fear of death. I won’t even lie – tears are welling up now as I write this, so let’s move on…
His passion: I’ve never seen anyone so passionate about what they do. Bob was driven with his music and the dreams he had for it. You could see how the music took over his whole body when he was on stage. I was almost jealous at his ability to just let go and be fully immersed in his gift. Sure, there was a business behind it that he was always aware of and handled in his own way – but that passion for spreading his musical message and helping the world was overwhelming to me. The way he gave of himself was amazing – and the way he was so entrenched in his music was astounding. There was a story shared of how, at Zimbabwe’s independence concert, people locked out ended up storming the gates and rushing in to the park. Tear gas was sprayed and everyone ran for cover, including most of the musicians. However, video footage shows Bob still singing, dancing, hopping around on stage, completely unaware and unaffected by the tear gas. He was there for the people, and he was not leaving. When everyone returned to stage, Bob laughed and said “Now I know who the real revolutionaries are.”
Bunny Wailer: I had to mention him in here – I adore the way he speaks! If you ever wanted to learn about the evolution of reggae music, you have to hear Bunny tell it in this film.
Revolutionary - most definitely a fitting description for Bob Marley. This documentary was the definitive piece on his life, and I can’t wait to share it with my children and their children so they can have a true understanding of this man, flaws and all.
Did you see Marley? If you’re in Toronto, it’s playing at Bloor Cinema until May 31st. It’s also available on iTunes, so get in where you fit in!