Mellow Movie: ‘Marley’ Premiere in Miami Beach

April 10, 2012

Words and Photo by Jesse Serwerโ€”

Last night saw the U.S. (non-festival) premiere of Marley, director Kevin MacDonald’s long-awaited, Marley family-backed documentary on the late music legend, at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach. LargeUp was present and we can safely report that the movie definitely lives up to its promise of illuminating Marley’s life and career in ways that it never has been before.

MacDonald, who stepped in to replace Jonathan Demme after that director himself replaced the original choice, Martin Scorcese, went above and beyond in seeking out Bob’s roots and motivations, locating the one-room house where Bob grew up in St. Ann, Jamaica, and visiting the small Bavarian village where Bob spent his final days in the care of controversialย holistic doctor Joseph Issels. Mixed in with obvious interview choices like Bunny Wailer, Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Allan “Skill” Cole are people like the German nurse who cared for the cancer-sickened singer, Marley’s white second cousin and a half sister who only learned of him after the last name of Marley’s wife, Rita, piqued her attention during a chance meeting in the ’70s.

One of the film’s most resonant moments comes when MacDonald plays the song “Cornerstone,” which Marley wrote after he was rejected by his father’s prominent businessman brother in what proved to be a formative experience, for the cousin (that uncle’s son), as well as his half sister. The latter notes, poignantly, that while the once high-and-mighty Marleys have faded into obscurity, Bob is one of the world’s most beloved figures. Also revealing are never-before seen photos of Marley in his last days, his body emaciated, head bald and face partially paralyzed. Bob Marley like you’ve never seen him before, indeed. Marley enthusiasts will be impressed by rarely seen live footage like his supernatural performance at the 1976 Smile Jamaica concert just days after he was shot at 56 Hope Road, and a 1980 Zimbabwe concert during which the singer continued to perform through a teargas incident that sent his whole band scattering.

Following the screening, director Billy Corben, of Cocaine Cowboys and Square Grouper fame, hosted a Q+A with guest Cedella Marley, during which Miami Beach City Commissioner Michael Gongora issued a proclamation declaring April 9th to be “Bob Marley Day” in that city. (The Marleys have been a longstanding presence in neighboring Miami proper, Bob’s place of death). Watch the movie trailer below, and look out for Marley in theaters and video on demand starting April 20.