A Jamaican Legend inspires the (re)birth of an American Lion

By Alicia Sealey

As Jamaica continues to celebrate its 50th year of Independence, two documentaries come to mind. One is about a Caribbean musical icon; the second is about an American musical icon reinventing himself. Their unifying thread is reggae music … with one being inspired by the other.

MARLEY (144 min; USA/UK; English; 2012; PG-13) Many documentaries have been made about the life, music and legend that is Bob Marley. However, not all are as satisfying at this effort from the Oscar®-winner director, Kevin Macdonald (“The Last King of Scotland”). Distributed in Canada by Entertainment One, this documentary has the blessings of the Marley family and comprises several personal recollections from many of his family and close friends: Rita Marley, Cedella Marley, Ziggy Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Chris Blackwell, Bunny Wailer, and Bob Marley himself … just to name a few.

The information contained herein is woven together expertly as it tells the story of Marley’s life including rare accounts about his father, and precious concert footage from the 1976 Smile Jamaica Concert where Marley performed just two days after a failed assassination. This documentary provides a fluid and interesting introduction to his universal appeal and his seminal music. And even if you are a seasoned Marley fan, this documentary is time well spent.

MARLEY was an official selection in the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival 2012, and can be seen in limited release on the big screen at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, Toronto (www.bloorcinema.com). The next two upcoming screenings are: (i) Saturday, January 5th, 2013 at 9.15pm, and (ii) Monday, January 7th, 2013 at 9.15pm. If you prefer to watch films at home, Canada’s The Movie Network (TMN) has MARLEY in rotation for the month of January 2013. Check your local TV listings for details.

Since its world premiere at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival in February, it has gone into limited release in theatres worldwide from April 2012. It has garnered three prestigious acknowledgements. It was nominated in the “Best Documentary” category at the 15th annual Moët British Independent Film Awards. Held on December 9th, 2012 in London, it sadly lost to “The Imposter.”

At the upcoming 44th NAACP Image Awards – to be held on February 1st, 2013 – it is nominated in the “Outstanding Documentary (Theatrical or Television)” category. This show will air live at 8pm EST on the American TV station, NBC.
The soundtrack of this doc is a true treasure, and did not go unnoticed! At the upcoming 55th Annual Grammy® Awards – to be held on February 10th, 2013 – it is nominated in the category “Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media – Bob Marley (Artist), and The Wailers, (Artist).” This show will air live at 8pm EST on the American TV station, CBS.
The DVD, Blu-ray and soundtrack for MARLEY can all be purchased from www.amazon.com.

REINCARNATED (95 min; USA; English; 2012; not yet officially rated) A world premiere, official selection at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, REINCARNATED chronicles a month-long trip of Snoop Dogg in Jamaica. Directed by Vice Magazine’s global editor and first-time feature documentary director, Andy Capper, the sojourn of Snoop and his entourage of close family and insiders seems sincere enough.

Snoop Dogg, an American hip-hop musical icon, journeys to Jamaica. There, he embraces a new side of himself that affects the type of music he wishes to make from now one; conscious lyrics/songs just like Bob Marley did. Snoop thinks of himself as Bob Marley reincarnated; not wanting to take away from Marley’s legacy, but to add and give back … to inspire! In a fateful meeting with Bunny Wailer, Bunny suggests that Snoop is not a dog but a lion; a moniker Snoop now promotes.

At this documentary’s press conference at TIFF 2012, Snoop Lion was peppered with several questions about his new musical direction. For instance: how is he going to reconcile the harsh, hip-hop lyrics from his past songs with the new conscious music he purports to want to make now.

“This is just another page from my book,” said Snoop Lion, “so please … just enjoy.” However, when pressed for more clarity, Snoop Lion replied, “I can put a clean glass of water, and a dirty glass of water in front of you. You choose.”

This documentary has many original songs that are authentic to Snoop’s voice and the reggae vibe. Many are quite catchy musically. However at the time of this writing, no information was available about a soundtrack album. Now doubt, one will be forthcoming. Also, no information was available about its eventual theatrical release. In the meantime, check www.snooplion.com for details. I will provide any updates as I get them in the comments’ section of this online article, OK? …. Cheers, Alicia!

Alicia Sealey is a freelance journalist and broadcaster based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Email: asealey@the-wire.com.