Review by Sifiso Maposa
A Latin American & Caribbean film Festival is currently running in Pretoria. It is organised by the GRULAC and each embassy from this region will be screening a film or two from their country each night. Last night i was privileged to be invited to the Jamaican screening of the film ‘Marley’. I am assuming right now that you know which Marley it is, the one and only.
I have disclosed before that the Caribbean fascinates me. The people, their ways, their ways of speaking, the music and just the general vibes. I am sure it has something to do with my inner recognition of them as brothers and sisters, their forefathers taken as slaves from their beautiful Africa. I see a lot of Africa-ness in the music, dance, values and even though they are their own people now ,the link between Africa and The Afro- Caribbean is something to marvel at.
Well, the film about Bob Marley was nothing like i had expected. I knew about Bob, I knew his music, I knew that my one aunt loves him to death ( she even went to his show when he visited Zimbabwe) , I had seen pictures of him on many things , but this documentary showed me a different side to this mega star. The thing about ‘reviews’ is the care that must be taken to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t watched it. So in the spirit of mystery, I will not delve into full details but will only tell of that which stuck out for me.
So maybe I am the only one who didn’t know this but Captain Marley, a white man was Bob’s father. I just thought he was a ‘yellow bone’!. It makes perfect sense now. It was sad to see how he struggled with this complex of being half caste and the ridicule he faced when he was younger. That is until he moved to Trench Town and joined the Rastafari movement, put his hair in dreadlocks and started leading a life devoted to Jah. He literary started from the bottom with his band, The Wailers. And for those wondering, someone in the film mentioned that marijuana is illegal in Jamaica BUT rastafarians smoke it as they believe it is a holy herb. End of story.
In the film we meet Bob’s first wife Rita and his children. We also meet 2 other women among many who had relationships with Bob , with Rita’s full knowledge. Apparently Bob did not follow the western ways of marriage and sticking to one wife, a sentiment also shared by African cultures ( although not in many places presently). This got me thinking about traditions made to appear as normal by the Western world vs the traditions that existed in the African cultures prior to that. Rita knew what Bob was doing and she says she sometimes went in to help Bob get rid of girls who wouldn’t leave. Now that is something! I know someone who married into a polygamous relationship. The dynamics of this arrangement are interesting and at the same time amazing to watch. Because i have been raised in the so called ‘ western ways’, polygamy is a taboo in today’s world.Western influence vs African tradition. To each man his own.
I was struck by Bob Marley’s wisdom and calmness. It’s like every word he spoke was philosophical and could be turned into one of those intelligent ‘quotable quotes. ‘ When he was asked if he was scared for his life after he survived an assassination attempt , he calmly said ‘ what is to be will be’ . Really?! Respect! Bob Marley was an amazing character, humble, wise, caring. He performed at a peace concert in Kingston and brought 2 fighting political parties to shake hands,a milestone in the country’s history at the time. He bought a house on Hope Street which became a ‘spot’ for people to hang out at (and is the reason behind the title of this article). He had been questioned on how he ended up living a few doors away from the governor and he again calmly replied “sistah, I bring the ghetto uptown”
I have always known that Bob Marley performed on the day Zimbabwe gained Independance from Britain, but I did not know that he did it for free. It was a new government, he was a megastar, his price was high but when the Zimbabwean officials approached him to ask him to perform and found the country could not afford this, Bob did it anyway, flying his crew and equipment on his own tab. Now that’s a revolutionary! Bob will always be remembered in Zimbabwe for generations to come and has inspired a large rastafari movement in the country.
The end of the film chronicles the last months of Bob Marley as his body was riddled with cancer,losing his dreadlocks and stopping performances. His funeral was a big affair as all people came out in the streets of Jamaica to pay their last respects.
He was truly a great figure that went beyond living for himself to dedicating his life to others with humility like no other.He went beyond color lines, inspiring people all over the world with reggae music. His legacy lives on to this day.
I recommend this documentary ‘Marley’ (2012) to get a glimpse of Bob Marley with commentaries from people who knew him well including his wife, children, bandmates, and friends.
Special thanks to the Jamaican High Commissioner to South Africa and the Jamaican Embassy for screening this documentary at the Latin American and Caribbean Film Festival, Pretoria .October 2013
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