Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Marley" Documentary Set To Open April 20th In Theaters & Video On Demand

The reggae icon is the subject of a new documentary, "Marley," from Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald ("The Last King of Scotland"). The film, which features interviews with Marley's surviving family members and reggae contemporaries like Bunny Wailer and Junior Marvin, premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival (reviews here and here) and the SXSW Film Festival. It will be released theatrically and through video on demand on April 20, a date whose coded significance will resonate with those who understand its significance.

While there have been other Marley documentaries, this one in particular seems to have captured the imagination of fans and the attention of mainstream media (the venerable New York Times had a decent piece that included quotes from the Macdonald, as well as Marley's family members.)

I've always had an ambivalent relationship with Marley. I discovered his music as a young teen and listened to the Exodus album obsessively.  Like many college-aged music fans of the early 80's, a poster of Marley held a place of significance on my dorm room wall.  I hoped his visage would convey my belief in the power of music to right social injustice and to mark me as someone whose interest in music extended far beyond Madonna, Michael Jackson and MTV.  To me, he was on par with The Clash and The Specials in their unflinching willingness to point out the hypocrisy of those in power who turned a blind eye to the chaos ranging around them. For that, I always give Marley credit for turning me into a "soul rebel."

However, Marley soon became a brand name celebrity on par with Michael Jackson in terms of recognition, mass appeal, and merchandising. This rampant commercialism contrasted with the essence of his music and the way he lived his life that always left a bad taste in my mouth.  As I moved on to 2-Tone and punk and reggae, I left Marley and his music behind.

That said, he remains an icon to me and his contribution to the birth of ska and reggae in the late 60's (which is often overlooked) as well as his work with American soul artists Johnny Nash (see my post about their unique relationship) was a key to its growth.  I'm happy that this documentary has the blessings of his entire family (which is no small feat).

If you live in New York, BrooklynVegan is presenting a FREE advanced screening of the film at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on Thursday, 4/12, at 7pm (first come, first served). Seats are put out in the main/back room of the club where a screen comes down over the stage, and the sound booms out of their concert-ready system. See you there!

Check out the official trailer below.

Check out an interview with Macdonald and his son Ziggy Marley from the SXSW festival.

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