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Bob Marley documentary approved by family of reggae legend

The diverse appeal of reggae artist Bob Marley’s music was evident on Tuesday evening, where the red carpet premiere for Marley, a documentary about his life and music, drew celebrities from Snoop Dogg to Jane Fonda to Kenny Chesney.

Members of the Marley clan — sons Ziggy, Robbie, and Rohan, were also in attendance at the screening, held at the Arclight Cineramadome in Hollywood, as were actors Luke Wilson and Rosario Dawson. Kevin MacDonald, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker who directed the documentary, did not attend.

For Ziggy Marley, who handpicked MacDonald to make the film, the timeless appeal of his father’s music, as well as the messages of peace and justice hidden within his songs, transcends borders.

“I’ve been to Africa, I’ve been to many places where, when Bob was around. He wasn’t there physically, but his music was there, supporting the movements of freedom in these countries. So it’s not much about the man when it comes to, you know, the things he would stand for, it’s about the message. And that is still here,” said Ziggy Marley.

There have been hundreds of documentaries, films, and television specials devoted to the popular singer, but none of the previous projects had Marley family approval. With Marley, which Ziggy Marley sought out MacDonald to make with full participation from the family, the family says the definitive portrait of the artist will emerge.

“Over the years, I’ve seen so many things on Bob from people, but never from our, never from our perspective or our input.  So we think if there’s going to be something definitive, we must be involved, it cannot be done without us.  So we wanted to do this,” said Ziggy Marley.  

“We wanted to show the world the more intimate side, and not just people’s opinions, and people who didn’t really know him to do a movie. People who knew him,” said Robbie Marley, one of Bob Marley’s 11 children.

Marley, whose many hits with Bob Marley & the Wailers included No Woman No Cry and Redemption Song, popularized reggae to audiences around the world. He died in 1981 at the age of 36 after being diagnosed with malignant melanoma.

In addition to using never before seen interview and performance footage of the singer, Marley also intimately documents a painful time in the family history, when he spent time treating his cancer in Germany shortly before his death.  

Rapper Snoop Dogg, a Marley fan and family friend, says that he is continually inspired by him as a musician.     

“He influenced me to have peace and love in the music that I’m making, always be about the people, and be up close and personal with them, not have a wall.  And a great bond with the people who make you who you are, you know?” said Snoop Dogg. “It just seems like as I get more into the music, I become more of a Bob Marley listener.”

Bob Marley’s crossover appeal was also apparent to Kenny Chesney, an unlikely fan, being one of country music’s top-selling acts.

“I was a kid from east Tennessee who heard his music, I didn’t know who it was, I didn’t know what it was, I just knew I loved it,” said Chesney. “It’s just music that touches everyone, and like I said, I think every artist that makes music today, no matter what genre, wishes they could be that simple and touch that many people.  That’s amazing really.”

Marley, released by Magnolia Pictures, will begin a limited run in theaters starting April 20.