From The Guardian
In 2005, the director Kevin Macdonald was working in Uganda on his film The Last King of Scotland. In the slums of Kampala he was struck by a curious fact. There seemed to be images of Bob Marley and “Get up, stand up” slogans and dreadlocks wherever he went.
Marley had been on Macdonald’s mind anyway: he had been asked by Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, if he would be interested in getting involved in a film project about the Jamaican musician’s enduring legacy.
The original plan had been to follow a group of rastafarians on their journey from Kingston to their spiritual homeland of Ethiopia, to attend a celebration of the 60th anniversary of Marley’s birth. As it worked out, that film was never made, but, when the opportunity arose for Macdonald to make a more ambitious documentary about Marley, he jumped at the chance.
Crucially, the film had the blessing and support of the Marley family and key figures in his musical evolution, including the long-estranged original Wailer, Neville “Bunny” Livingstone. “It seemed very important to make this film now, while some of the people who had known Bob the best, in the early years in particular, were still around to tell the tale,” Macdonald says.
He set about collecting interviews and researching some of the more mysterious aspects of a much mythologised life, that ended tragically prematurely in 1981, with Marley aged only 36.
There were frustrations for Macdonald, not least the almost complete absence of footage or photography from the formative years of Bob Marley and the Wailers. But, with persistence and the rich memories of the period from Livingstone, Marley’s widow Rita and others, he pieced the biopic together.
In his lifetime Bob Marley was a reluctant interviewee. “Having little formal education,” Macdonald suggests, “he felt uncomfortable being asked questions by journalists.” Anyway, there were aspects of his past on which he did not want to dwell, particularly his feelings about his white, absent father, Norval Marley, a man who claimed to have been a captain in the colonial Caribbean army, but wasn’t.
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