Documentary has been the artform for the twenty-first century. Digital technologies have made professional movie-making tools accessible to anyone with a computer, and digital television and web broadcast has brought a wealth of viewing opportunities to international audiences. From Supersize Me to An Incovenient Truth to Bombay Beach, the stories that a man with a movie camera has access to are the most riveting form of news and contemporary cultural information. An offset of this has been that conventional feature film documentary has had a renewed eminence, and truly great examples, films like Asif Kapadia's Senna, find a general audience that might otherwise not take an interest in.
Kevin Macdonald was one of the great contemporary documentary makers. With films including Touching the Void and the Oscar-winning One Day in September, Macdonald was revisioning how to tell a non-fiction story for cinema, television and home video. Success being what it is, Macdonald went to Hollywood and made critically and commercially lauded movies including State of Play and The Last King of Scotland. He returns to his popular roots with his latest film, the feature documentary, Marley.
You know the man, though mightn't know the complete story. Bob Marley was a true visionary, and one of the twentieth century's greatest musicians. From incredibly humble beginnings, Marley transformed the popular sound of reggae until it was both true to its urban roots and an evocation of a Caribbean sensibility that is as romantic as a summer holiday. This detailed look at the man's life takes in as much as the frame of the cinema screen can hold, and reveals that there is much about Marley that is relatively unknown. A really fantastic film (please mind the value judgement), Macdonald manages to hold a balance between demystifying his subject while still maintaining a reverence for the legend. (Here is where I'll qualify my previous value judgement): The mark of a good film, better yet a documentary, is one that will thrall fans and non-fans alike. The subject might be legendary to some, but the film is simply gripping for anyone who enjoys a good movie.
Marley is on general release.