Marley (2012)

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Released 24-Oct-2012

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Biopic Interviews-Crew-Director Kevin Macdonald
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 139:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Roger Donaldson

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case ?
RPI ? Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, Only de herb, Mon!
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Watching this documentary from film-maker Kevin MacDonald (Touching the Void, The Last King of Scotland) brings two numbers into sharp focus. Has it really been 30 years since the death of Bob Marley? And, did this legend of reggae and world music really die after only 36 years on this planet?

     The answer to both questions, of course, is a melancholy "yes". Nesta Robert "Bob" Marley was born in 1945 in the rural Jamaican town of Nine Mile. Like so many others he made the journey with his mother to the big city of Kingston only to end up in the slums of Trenchtown. Fuelled by a love of music Bob began to write, play and record at the tender age of 16 so it is perhaps not surprising that despite his early, untimely, death he left us with a legacy of a number of classic recordings.

     It was his upbringing in the ghetto which shaped his work. But it was also his heritage, the son of an elderly white government official who Bob didn't know; he was a half caste, a pale skinned "pickney" amongst his darker brothers. Bob expressed the view that he was neither black nor white but belonged to God, yet it was perhaps this multiracial background that helped his appeal to both black and white audiences.

     In the short interview which accompanies this DVD director Kevin MacDonald explains that he bought his first Bob Marley and the Wailers album, Uprising, when he was 13 years old. The effect on him of the music was palpable. It was exotic and yet filled with the spirit of empowerment and rebellion easy for a teenage boy to understand.

     Although there have been other documentaries about Bob Marley it has been difficult for anyone to produce a truly definitive biography due to the complicated rights issues over his material, and the reluctance of family members to become involved in films about him. MacDonald is justly proud and blessed by the fact that he had the time, the money and the researchers to hunt out everybody who was a friend and family member of Marley to participate in the film. As a result it is a comprehensive and clear, as well as extremely detailed, biographical film which neither deifies nor demonised its subject.

     The film charts the life story of Bob Marley from birth to death, focussing on the people who helped shape his life. It is not an album-by-album story although there is plenty of concert footage and music on offer. This is a film for those fans who probably already know the music and want to dig into the life story of this amazing man.

     Interestingly, it was not an easy task getting some of the family and friends together. Bob had 11 children (including musicians Ziggy and Damian) with 7 different women and the dangerous world of Kingston Jamaica has meant that many of his compatriots have not lived long lives. Still, it is amazing to see Bob's mother, wife Rita and estranged performer and half-brother "Bunny" Livingston all giving frank recollections of the old days. Bunny is eccentric in his pristine white rasta inspired outfit whilst, of course, no one can hold a candle to the oddness of Lee "Scratch" Perry!

     Alongside the music are Bob's other touchstones; the devotion to the Rastafarian movement which saw him adoring the Lion of Judah, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia believed to be the resurrection of Christ, smoking an awful lot of ganja and indulging in his beloved soccer. Sadly there isn't a huge amount of interview footage available but what there is provides insights into his character. It is all here. His albums, his loves including Miss World Cindy Breakespeare, compatriots including rigger and general go-to Neville Carrick; and the events which shaped his life including assassination attempts and his efforts to bring unity to the violent politics of Jamaica.

     For Marley fans this will be indispensable, perhaps unforgettable, viewing. To see the proud Tuff Gong shrivelled and dying in Austria is a sobering vision and yet throughout the spirit of life prevails. Casual fans will still get something out of the film but those who have little or no knowledge of the man or reggae may find the 2 hour 20 running time a little long.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


     The film Marley derives from a number of video sources. Stemming back as far as the 60s they present an understandable variance in picture quality. This film gathers them all together in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This is the same as the cinematic aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

     Some of interview footage looks clear and crisp. For example the footage of Marley's children was mostly filmed recently and is in perfect condition. Apparently Bob's mother was the first to be filmed (she has since died) and this footage looks a little rough.

     No attempt has been made to conduct a frame by frame restoration of the early materials. They appear in all their ragged glory. And some of the concert footage was obviously shot in 16mm and has been blown up to 35mm. It is showing its age.

     Nevertheless, the overall impression of this documentary is that the picture quality is very satisfactory.

     There are subtitles in English. Parts of the film where the Jamaican patois is too strong have been subtitled in any event.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Marley has as its prime soundtrack a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track running at 448 Kb/s. There is also a 2.0 track which is an English descriptive audio soundtrack which gives a good account of the on-screen action.

     The 5.1 track is perfectly adequate for the documentary. Most of it consists of talking heads interviews, with the sound coming from the centre channels. The dialogue is mostly clear and easy to understand. The only limitation is the occasional heavily accented speaker. As said above, sometimes there will be subtitles for the most difficult to understand sections.

     Although there are a few snippets of music by other parties this film is wall-to-wall Bob Marley and the Wailers. Fans of Marley will be able to recognise just about every song that is played. Even those who have only a passing interest in Marley will be able to recognise some of the greats: No Woman, No Cry, I Shot the Sheriff, Jammin', Is This Love?, Redemption Song, Exodus and many more. Director MacDonald points out in the interview special feature that some of the music he found for the film had not been publicly heard before. An example, a version of No Woman No Cry with Peter Tosh on piano as a simple accompaniment. Spine tingling!

     The sub-woofer helps convey the bass and the surrounds do give some extra ambience to the film although there is not really a great deal of directed sound.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     There is only one extra on this DVD.

Interview with Kevin MacDonald

     In this interview the director talks about his involvement and approach to the project as well as his history with Bob Marley. It was a labour of love for him and yet, as said above, the fact that he had some money meant that he was able to spend more time on research and obtain some rarer items. He talks about the dearth of material in archives and notes how many of the people sought outrageous sums for their photographs/musical snippets in the belief that they had the one truly important piece of Marley memorabilia!

    An interesting interview.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The DVD of this film in other Regions apparently contains more extras (those that are present on the Blu-ray release). Can I suggest buy the Region B Bu-ray instead?


     Marley is a fascinating documentary which benefits from the painstaking research. It is still a little frustrating that Marley himself did not give more interviews. Those living in the 70s/80s will remember the George Negus interview with Marley which is excerpted in this film. How curious seemed the Rastafarian lifestyle at that time. It is a lengthy film and perhaps is not for those approaching Marley for the first time.

     The video and sound quality are fine and perfectly acceptable. The extra is worth a listen although it would have been nice to have a director’s commentary. My feeling is that some of the family members and associates would have some interesting stories to tell!

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, October 13, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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