The Encounters Blog. 20 Feb, 2012
South African International Documentary Film Festival
Bob Marley: The Making of a Legend
Dir: Esther Anderson and Gian Godoy. 2011 | 90 min | UK, Jamaica
If you’re a documentary-loving Rastafarian Bob Marley fan you have a lot look forward to! There’s Kevin Macdonald’s Marley, a fully-fledged biodoc about the famous Jamaican which recently premiered at this year’s Berlinale; there’s RasTa: A Soul’s Journey, in which Bob and Rita Marley’s granddaughter, Donisha Prendergast, travels the world to explore the roots of Rastafari; there’s Holding on to Jah which also tells the story of Rastafarianism and reggae; and finally there’s Bob Marley: The Making of a Legend, directed by Esther Anderson and Gian Godoy.
Anderson, an actress, singer, songwriter, photographer and filmmaker, met Marley in the 1970s before he became famous, decided to help promote him and his music, and became his lover. Bob Marley: The Making of a Legend describes the early parts of Marley’s career and focuses on Anderson’s contribution to his worldwide success.
What sets this documentary apart is the extensive black-and-white footage that Anderson took of herself, Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, using one of the earliest hand-held Sony video cameras. This intimate material, which shows them in conversation and exploring Jamaica, was long thought to have been lost and includes scenes from the Wailers’ first rehearsal session.
It’s this grainy, raw footage, which is interspersed in the film with present-day interviews, that makes this movie a significant historical document and a must see for any serious reggae enthusiast.
Bob Marley: The Making of a Legend does not attempt to present an exhaustive biography of Marley and it’s certainly not a sing-along-to-all-the-hits kind of music documentary. In fact, the soundtrack doesn’t include a single performance by Marley or the Wailers.
While the film is quite self-referential with regards to Anderson’s role in launching Marley and the Wailers to international stardom (among other things she claims to have encouraged the musicians to cultivate dreadlocks and that her doctor in England was the template for the infamous sheriff John Brown in I Shot the Sheriff) it provides an intriguing portrait of the young artist from his days of obscurity until Anderson left him when she discovered that he’d been married to Rita all along.