VH1 airs the Bob Marley biopic "Marley" as part of its "Rock Docs" series Saturday at 9p.m. When the documentary had a brief theatrical run earlier this year, Newsday contributor John Anderson gave it four stars. Here is his May 18 review:
Considering his resilience as a cultural icon, it seems impossible Bob Marley has been dead for 30 years, and equally remarkable that no one until now has produced a movie as ambitious as the man himself, a musical and political force who led one of the more remarkable lives in the history of pop.
"Marley" changes all that: Via concert performances, archival footage of Marley offstage and probing interviews with the late reggae star's family, friends and intimates, director Kevin Macdonald has created not only a documentary worthy of his subject, but one that makes nearly 21/2 hours skip by like the A side of an old Wailers 45.
Macdonald is not the first director to try to take the Marley story beyond the concert film format and examine the life. Both Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme gave it a try before Macdonald -- an Oscar winner for the Munich Olympics documentary "One Day in September" -- took it on. (His narrative films include "The Last King of Scotland," "State of Play" and "The Eagle.")
To his credit, Macdonald knows how strong a story he has, and he doesn't get in its way. Marley's birth in the Jamaican backwater of St. Ann's Parish, his mixed-race parentage, his feelings of rejection, anger and fierce ambition and his eventual global triumphs are allowed to play out with what seem like the right people at the right time, fleshing out the Marley story. Macdonald includes all the usual suspects, from his family to his mistress -- former Miss World Cindy Breakspeare -- to his onetime manager and Island Records founder, Chris Blackwell, to his acerbic ex-bandmate Bunny Wailer.
But Macdonald also talks to less obvious characters -- eccentric producer Lee "Scratch" Perry, for instance, and Dudley Sibley, who ended up a janitor at Marley's original studio -- and the result is a satisfying, consistently engaging and unlikely tale about the world's first Third World superstar.