It's difficult to believe it was eleven years ago that Bob Marley died. Reggae's most influential exponent and the most poetic voice of Rastafari, Marley was the Third World's first and still pre-eminent superstar. This documentary celebration of his life and music, which is having a limited theatrical release, provides a very enjoyable reminder of what a handsome, charismatic young lion he was, a great songwriter capable of being by turns electrifying, hypnotic or - transported by "herb" - worryingly delirious on stage.
Director Declan Lowney has chosen to present the man without any outside commentary. "This is my story", says Marley's own voice by way of introduction, whereupon one is thrust into a mix of The Wailers in concert (22 songs culled from eight years and several continents), rehearsal footage, scenes of Kingston street life and news cuts, all loosely strung together with clips from Marley interviews. Letting Marley and the music speak for themselves has its pleasing, unpompous aspect. But after a while the material cries out for some conventional narrative, a little legend-in-its-context-setting, particularly when Marley could be eloquent on occasion and incoherent on another. The significance of political scenes, for example, will elude many with no scorecard naming the players.
If Marley's Rasta faith comes across to the uninitiated as a tad baffling, however, it is clear how his beliefs gave meaning to his life and work. And the touching scenes at his state funeral after his death of cancer at 36 are eloquent testimony to his stature. Pity you can't stand up in a cinema, though; it's a little strange dancing in the seat.