I like happy coincidences. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had no plans to visit the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston but then there I was. So last Thursday evening when the new Marley documentary premiered at Emancipation Park, I knew I had to be there.
As I walked to the park at around 6 pm, I could hear Bob’s music, specifically the song I had heard at his Museum a few days before, the one I wish now I had asked about. Scores of people had already gathered, some were sitting on the grass, others were milling around. Kids were playing happily. I wondered how many of them really knew why their parents had brought them to the park.
The main stage was draped with the red, green and gold of the Rasta flag and several screens had been placed around the park so that viewers could sit where ever they wished to watch the documentary. The mood was festive.
Wandering around, I bumped into a human chain formed by several young men and women who were wearing Marley T-shirts. They made up part of the VIP entrance. Standing behind the human barrier for a few minutes — they wouldn’t let me cross — I caught the arrival of the Marley girls, a former government minister and a group of people I didn’t recognize. They were ushered into an official area in front of the stage. Later, I would learn that in that group was none other than Kevin Macdonald, the film’s Academy Award-winning director.
But too many people were gathered at the VIP entrance and I couldn’t get clear shots of anything or anyone so I wandered towards the main gate where the officials would arrive.
As I got closer, the music coming from the park seemed to fade and the sounds of drumming grew louder and louder. Of course, there would be drums, I thought. This is a celebration of the life of unarguably the most well known Rastaman in the world!
It was the best place to be. As I vibed to the music, I saw more VIPs, including the former prime minister, Andrew Holness and his wife, as they arrived.
Shortly after, my stepmother who I was waiting for, appeared and we found seats near the entrance. Just in time too because shortly after, the music stopped and the MC took the stage. The event began with more drumming, then greetings from Rita Marley, Bob’s widow, and several others, including Lisa Hanna, the current minister of culture.
Unfortunately, either they didn’t think about it or technical difficulties prevented it but the happenings on stage were not relayed to the screen I was closest to so we had to settle for just listening. Thankfully, the speeches didn’t last too long and the first images of the film we’d all gathered to see rolled onto the screen.
After about an hour, I felt one then another drop of water hit my arm. Instinctively, I looked up at the now dark sky but I didn’t move. They didn’t predict rain, I thought to myself, as if that would hold it back.
As drops began to land with more urgency and frequency, people started streaming out of the park. My stepmom stood up. I felt defeated. I didn’t want to leave but I didn’t want to get soaked again (another post). We headed across the street to the Pegasus Hotel, where we had planned to go after the screening.
When we finished our drinks and walked back to the lobby, I realized that the film was still running. Just as I thought, the rain never came. I kicked myself, though not too hard.
The Marley documentary includes interviews with Bob, Rita, members of the family and at least two of the women with whom he fathered children. It also showed the reggae singer as cancer ravaged his body and his locks had began to fall out. One of the most poignant moments for me was the clip of daughter, Cedella, talking about not having friends outside the family. Parents wouldn’t allow their children to play with Bob’s kids because ‘all your parents do is play music and smoke weed.’ It worked in the end, I think, as it explained the closeness of Bob’s children both those with Rita and those outside his marriage.
I definitely want to see the documentary again but in a different setting, with less distractions and better acoustics. Since it was an open space, people moved around freely, sometimes passing directly in front of the screen. And there was a man standing at my right ear who just wouldn’t shut up. Maybe it was our location but the acoustics were not great — the dialogue was muffled in spots. It was far better across the street in the courtyard of the Pegasus. But I wouldn’t have been able to see the screen or find a seat.
The next day, I read in the papers that several Rastas had objected to the colors of their flag – red, green and gold – being used for the red carpet as it was not to be walked on. The organizers draped it with a swath of white as seen in the photo above. We’re a little sensitivity to flags here as there was another flag controversy recently. At the swearing in of a mayor, swaths of gold, green and black were to be used as a backdrop to the proceedings. Somehow, the green was left out. Since green is the color of the opposition Jamaica Labor Party (the mayor is of the ruling People’s National Party), they cried foul. To make matters worse, the official explanation just didn’t make sense so a lot of people are outraged. As is to be expected, someone, low on the totem pole, was fired or resigned but everyone feels he was the sacrificial lamb.
Another touching moment in the Marley documentary was hearing a member of the Marley family, Bob’s father’s family, acknowledge that the stone that the builder had refused had become bigger than all of them.
The Marley documentary was released on April 20th in most major cities.
Running time: 144 minutes