I remember very clearly seeing a picture of Bob Marley holding a joint the size of a cigar and laughing. I remember commenting that he had be brain dead from smoking a joint that big. Ironically, a few weeks later, Marley did in fact die of cancer unrelated to his love of marijuana.


Bob Marley was - and to a certain extent still is - one of Jamaica's largest industries. Yet he was also an enigma wrapped in a mystery until now. Kevin Macdonald's 145-minute documentary sheds new light on the musician's life from his extremely humble beginnings living in a tin shack to his final days.


Sanctioned by his entire family (which must have been a feat in itself) we see previously unseen footage of Marley in concert, at leisure and times in between. Candid conversations with his widow Rita, son Ziggy, former group member Bunny Wailer and others provide a very well-paced extremely musical experience.

The film discusses his youth - son of a 50-year old white British Navy Captain and his then 18-year old Jamaican mother, Marley was picked on because of his mixed heritage. This no doubt was the root of his racial harmony outlook.


Musically inclined at the onset, he recorded his first album (The Wailing Wailers) at 17 years old in 1965 with his original partner and childhood roommate, Bunny Wailer. His conversations about Marley become somewhat bitter when he talks about how Marley allowed himself to be manipulated into an exploitative recording style by Island Records Chris Blackwell.


The Wailers broke up as Bunny sought a solo career, but Marley retained the Wailers name and plugged in different singers. It is at this point that Marley had his international breakthrough with his first hit outside Jamaica from the Natty Dead album, "No Woman, No Cry". This pushed his international appeal higher as his legions grew. It also brought attention to his Rastafarian beliefs.


The details of his life to this point is perfectly intertwined with interviews with the people involved at the time.

Kevin Macdonald was given an extraordinary amount of access to Marley's archieves with behind the scene footage of Marley and various people - something that hardly ever happens. But Macdonald is an Oscar winning director ("One Day in September" - another documentary) who movies include "The Last King of Scotland," "Touching the Void," and "State of Play". that may have had something to do with the decision making. It should be noted that Macdonald wasn't the first director asked; Robert DeNiro was also offered the job but declined.


But it would be hard to imagine the character opening up to Deniro the same waywe remember the Rolling Stones concert movie.


Ziggy, Marley's late daughter Cedella, and his widow Rita are the best characters. Rita is especially frank about Marley well documented extra marital affairs - five of his children were with Rita and six others by vaious other women.


Then there is the music. If you were not a fan of ska and reggae, you will be. It won over Eric Clapton (which is why he covered "I Shot the Sherif") and many others.


Although it would be difficult to pinpoint, there still seems something that should have hitt he editing floor. At nearly 2.5 hours long it seems a bit much.


"Marley" is one of the best musical documentaries ever made, despite it's length. It helps shine more light on the mysterious life of a man who's objective was to shine the light of one love on the world.   -- GEOFF BURTON